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South Florida Poses Screwworm Risk to Pets

March 30, 2017

After more than fifty years, a devastating parasitic fly has returned to South Florida. So far, the fly's larvae, the screwworm has been quarantined south of Homestead but has killed an estimated 1/5th of Florida's Key deer. An endangered species, the Key deer is no match for the flesh-eating larvae. Although no report outside of the Keys has been filed with the Florida Department of Agriculture, it is a good idea for pet owners traveling south of Miami to keep a close eye on any open wounds their pet may have.

For the most part, agricultural inspectors had thought the blowfly had been eradicated from the United States. Ranchers and farmers may remember the last infestation of screwworms back in the mid-1960s when large numbers of livestock were lost to infection. The fly can smell an open wound from miles away and lays thousands of eggs which quickly release larvae that can lead to the death of the infected animal. Once the injury is found, the fly releases pheromones to signal and attract more flies.

As a traveling pet owner, keep a close eye on your furry friend to make sure there are no open wounds. Should you find any type of flies, movement or visible worms on a pet's injury, immediately seek veterinary assistance for treatment. This is especially true of anyone traveling to the Florida Keys from now until the problem is completely eradicated. Back in the 1960s, research scientists released sterilized male blowflies into the wild. Since females only breed once during their lifetime, there were no offspring causing the population to die out. Unfortunately, 135 of the estimated 800 Key deer that live in south Florida have been killed by the parasite.

As a general practice, it is always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian anytime your cat or dog has an open wound. Numerous types of infection can be harmful to your pet's health if a wound is not properly cleaned and treated. We know you love your pet, and we do too, so err on the side of caution. To schedule an appointment at PrimeVET, call (904) 644-7876 and we will be happy to assist.

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