Whatza Warble?

Pull up a chair! For those of our readers who are interested in learning some of the odds and ends of veterinary medicine, this will be a fun one for you today.

We’ve been posting a portion of our clinic photo collection on Flickr for about 10 months now. At first we started with cute pet photos and some photos that illustrated particular medical conditions that were interesting. We tried to keep the “gross factor” low, but after speaking with a number of our clients/owners, we learned that many of them wanted to see photos from the surgery and parasite side of the clinic. “People don’t have to click on anything they don’t want to see,” our owners told us.

Over the months, our photos have literally been shared around the world. Somewhat surprisingly, our most viewed photos are from our Warble collection.

What is a warble? Funny you should ask, because lots of folks have been Googling and searching for information about warbles and finding our photos. Here’s the run-down.


Warbles are the larval form of the Cuterebra fly. The female Cuterebra lays eggs around nests, usually rabbit or squirrel nests, or directly on animals. The egg hatches in response to the body heat and then the larva enters the animal through an opening such as the mouth, nose or open wounds. They then migrate through the body (don’t think about that for too long!) and move to just beneath the skin where they make a breathing hole, often around the neck. After about a month, the warble will push through the skin, fall to the ground, and pupate.

Warble on Paper Towel

During this process, especially after the breathing hole is created, there is marked inflammation around the location, and dogs and cats will groom/lick the area aggressively. Secondary infection can set in, and it can be quite harmful to the host if the warble ruptures beneath the skin.

If you see an inflamed area of skin on your dog or cat in late spring, summer or warmer fall time of the year with a small hole in the center of the inflammation, do not put any pressure on the area. Give us a call at 330-929-3223 so we examine the situation, and if there’s a parasite at the root of the problem, we can remove the larva safely for your pet.

Class dismissed!


  1. Nancy Kneessi

    Posted May 1, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    My cat had what looked like a warble under her neck. It was gone the next day. A hole was under her neck when I took her to the vet. Her mouth was red and her neck had swelling. She was put on antibiotics for three weeks. Any comments?

  2. Dr. Ryan Gates

    Posted May 16, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Without seeing your kitty, there’s not much to say. Certainly could have been a warble.

  3. Bethany Marks

    Posted July 10, 2016 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    My cat has a small hole with something sticking out of it and when she breaths it moves. It isn’t anything bigger than a pen hole any advice?

  4. Dr. Ryan Gates

    Posted July 27, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Bethany, certainly your situation has resolved one way or another, but for situations like what you’ve described, you will be best served speaking with a veterinarian in person and pursuing a physical examination of the pet in times of question.

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