A reader reached out to us form Waynesboro, Mississippi. She explained that her cat has 2 wolf worms and asked us, “Can they be contagious to humans?” We will provide some general information on wolf worms and do our best to answer our reader’s question!
Wolf worms, also known as screw worms, are the larvae of botflies belonging to the Oestroidea family. There are about 150 species of botflies around the world, and only 1 species is known to live in North America. These parasitic worms often chose cattle as their hosts, but it is not uncommon for them to infect a domestic pet, like a cat. Adult female botflies lay their eggs on or near their desired host. The larvae can sense heat, so if the eggs are not physically laid on the host, they can sense when the host is near and hatch. Once the eggs hatch the wolf worms will burrow into the skin of the host and form a hole known as a “breathing hole”. Wolf worms are visible to the naked eye, so you will likely be able to see them in or on your cat. These larvae are about 1/2 the size of a dime. They have cream colored bodies with a brown spot on the end.
Even though our reader knows her cat has wolf worms (symptoms include dizziness, heavy breathing, and fatigue) we recommend that she take her cat to the vet for treatment and removal. Removing the wolf worms at home can be dangerous and risky because the larvae might migrate to another part of the body, or the “breathing hole” site can burst and cause a deep tissue infection.
So, can our reader become infected by these wolf worms? We don’t believe so. There is only one species of botfly with human hosts, and it is not the same species that attacks cats.That said, we are not a medical source, and if our reader experiences any of the symptoms mentioned above, or notices an odd bump on her skin that could be a “breathing hole” we recommend she see a doctor as soon as possible.
To summarize, a reader asked us if wolf worms in cats are contagious to humans. While we are confident that it is very unlikely in North America, we are not medical professionals, and if our reader has any concerns she should see her doctor.