A maggot infestation, called myiasis, is a seasonal, warm-weather condition most often caused by the bluebottle or bow fly, which lays its eggs on open wounds of on badly soiled, matted fur.
Eggs hatch within 1-3 days, and the wriggling white worms eat dead tissue and drainage from the sore, which can become very large and serious very quickly. Over the next 2 weeks, the larvae grow into large maggots that produce a salivary enzyme that digests the dog's skin, causing "punched out" areas. The maggots then penetrate the skin, enlarge the opening, and set the stage for a bacterial skin infection.
With a severe infestation, the dog could go into shock. The shock is caused by enzymes and toxins secreted by the maggots. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention.
The flies lay eggs in festering wounds and in feces stuck to the dogs hind quarters.
White worm-like insects are seen on the skin. They range slightly in size, but are somewhat larger than a grain of rice. These insects will move and wriggle around.
1. Restrain your pet if necessary. Maggot infested areas of skin can be very painful, and a pet may bite as a reflex. See our video section on how to make a makeshift muzzle.
2. Use blunt tip scissors or electric clippers and clip the affected areas to remove soiled and matted hair. Fur traps bacteria and keeps reinfecting the wound.
3. Remove all maggots with blunt-nosed tweezers, a gauze pad, or tissue. Wear a pair of disposable medical gloves to avoid touching the worms.
4. Wash infected areas with Betadine solution and dry the dog. If you are using water to flush the wound, flush the area for at least 15 minutes. As the maggots escape the wound to avoid drowning, you are then able to easily pick them off. Water will rinse away any remaining fly eggs that haven't hatched.
5. Then spray or shampoo the dog using a non-alcohol based product that contains pyrethrins and check closely for remaining maggots.
6. Topical antibiotic ointments such as Neosporin can be used to assist in fighting infection. Be sure this ointment is out of "licking range" to avoid the oral consumption of the medicine.
Dogs with infected wounds should be treated with oral antibiotics. If the dog is debilitated, her health and nutrition must be improved to bring about a cure.
Cleaning maggots out of a wound is only the first step, and often, the tissue damage is severe. Healing may take a long time, and wound care is important to ensure that more infection doesn't develop.
A product designed for horses called Dy's Liquid Bandage is the veterinarians' choice for treating invasive, massive, or slow to heal wounds in cats and dogs. It is a combination of soothing herbs in an olive oil and beeswax formula. Olive oil is easily absorbed into the skin and carries the medicinal herbs along with it, while the beeswax covers the wound with a waterproof barrier that repels flies but allows air to penetrate to heal the wound.
The ointment works well on minor wounds, like a scrape or hot spot so it is a great home remedy to keep on hand.
If your pet has a history of problems with maggots and had a very thick coat that hides sores, it may be a good idea to have a professional dog groomer give them a trim for the summer months when maggots are most active.
Please contact your veterinarian or a professional pet groomer if you have questions about this condition.
Show Sources & Contributors +
Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook
Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007
Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD
The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats
Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001
Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM