A maggot infestation on dogs, or myiasis, is a parasitic disease that affects thousands of dogs each year. Myiasis happens as flies deposit their eggs inside an open lesion or wound. The eggs hatch and become maggots, which consume the dog’s dying or dead skin tissue, occasionally moving on to healthy tissue as well. The maggots stay in the wound, preventing it from healing, and may spread throughout the skin. If neglected, the maggots will burrow deeper inside a dog’s skin and systemically progress, eating away at critical organs.

Canines that are limited to the outdoors, have chronic skin conditions, open or festering wounds, or mobility impairment are more vulnerable to developing this disease. Sores, pre-existing wounds, and skin damage make canines prone to maggot infestations. The wounds may begin as extremely small and may be caused by excessive licking or scratching, or a fight with another animal. Persistent infections, skin rashes, allergies or frequently bad hygiene also can raise the risk of developing maggot infestations. Myiasis is more typical in humid and hot environments and in the summer season when flies are laying their eggs.

The most obvious indication of dog maggots is the existence of maggots on your dog’s skin, coat or inside of a wound. A female fly can lay 75,250 eggs at one time. You will be able to view the maggots moving and wriggling around. They may range in size from a quarter inch to around one inch. Usually, eggs can only be removed by shaving the dog’s hair. The dog that has untreated myiasis will develop a decaying, foul smell as the maggots secrete an enzyme that kills healthy skin tissue.

To prevent maggot infestations, inspect your dog’s skin on a regular basis. Make sure that moist areas are kept dry. If you see any wounds, wash and clean them with antiseptics. Treatment of maggot infestations involves clipping the hair, cleaning the wounds and removing all maggots. This is usually performed underneath general anesthesia. Antibiotics and topical salves are necessary after maggot removal.

Dr. Karsten Fostvedt is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.

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