Pet turtles are susceptible to many parasitic diseases, including cutaneous myiasis. Cutaneous myiasis is characterized by the presence of maggots inside an existing skin wound. Here are four things turtle owners need to know about this serious disease.
Why does cutaneous myiasis occur?
Chelonians (turtles and tortoises) develop cutaneous myiasis frequently. Bot flies may be responsible for this. Bot flies create a small wound in your turtle's skin and then lay their eggs in the wound.
Cutaneous myiasis can also occur as a complication of a pre-existing wound. If your turtle has an open wound anywhere on their body, flies may lay their eggs within the wound. They do this so that their larvae can feed on the tissue once they hatch.
Turtles that live outdoors are at risk of this condition. If your turtle gets injured, cover their wound and move them indoors until they've healed. If moving them indoors isn't possible, cover their outdoor enclosure with screens to keep the flies from getting to your pet.
What are the signs of this disease?
If bot flies are to blame, you'll notice lumps on your turtle's skin. These lumps have an opening on the top that is covered with a crusty black substance. If you remove the crusty coating from the top of the lump, you'll be able to see the bot fly larvae within the lump.
If regular flies are to blame, you'll notice flies landing on a pre-existing wound on your turtle's skin. Later, maggots will appear in the wound.
How serious is it?
Cutaneous myiasis is a very serious condition. The fly larvae feed on your turtle's flesh after they hatch, and if they're not removed promptly, they can cause a lot of damage. In some cases, they can cause enough damage to kill your pet.
How do vets treat cutaneous myiasis?
To treat this condition, your vet will first need to remove all of the larvae from your turtle's skin. This is done with forceps; once the larvae have been removed, the area will be washed out with an antiseptic solution. Your vet will then apply antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with a dressing. This treatment sounds simple, but don't try to do it by yourself; you may inadvertently cause further damage to your pet's skin when removing the larvae.
If you think your turtle has cutaneous myiasis, take them to a vet, like those at East Valley Animal Clinic, right away.