Maggots: A Nasty Problem in Pets

| September 2, 2011 | 33 Comments

It’s that time of year again …

One of the least favorite times of year for most emergency staff is what we in the veterinary community like to refer to as “maggot season.” While most people only think of maggots growing in spoiled food or on things that are no longer alive, maggots can also be a problem in our live pets.

Maggots are fly larvae (an early stage of fly development), and a maggot infestation is called myiasis. When looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs, flies are usually attracted to things with decaying or rotten smells. In our live pets, attractive sites for flies can include infected bite wounds, areas of fur that are matted with urine or feces, skin folds, infected ears, ruptured skin masses, hot spots and surgical incisions, to name a few. After about 1-3 days, the eggs hatch. At first, the maggots will feed on dead skin or debris. But when that food source runs out, they release an enzyme in their saliva that starts digesting healthy skin. The enzyme can cause small holes in the skin, and then the maggots can actually burrow underneath the skin. They can also tunnel into the rectum or vagina of a pet. With time, the maggots can start releasing toxins that can make your pet sick very quickly, leading to fever, lethargy and shock.

So if you find maggots on your pet, get them to a vet immediately, where they will be able to clip and clean the underlying cause and remove the maggots. Some pets might need to be hospitalized and placed on IV fluids overnight, in addition to being started on antibiotics.

One of the biggest problems we’ve run into lately concerning maggots is false information on the Internet about getting rid of them at home — attempting to do so can make our job harder and further complicate your pet’s health. The problem is that the majority of information out there is geared toward killing maggots in food, not on your live pets. Some of the worst recommendations out there include the following — DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY OF THESE MEASURES:

  • Placing gasoline, oil, kerosene or lighter fluid on maggots is not a safe remedy. Besides potentially being a local irritant, if your pet ingests that kind of fluid, they can aspirate some of the material into the lungs.
  • Pouring straight bleach on the maggots is another unwise treatment recommended online — doing so can be very irritating to the eyes and act as an irritant to the lungs as well.
  • Pouring powdered lime on your pet also is not a good idea, since it can cause vomiting, diarrhea and GI tract ulceration.
  • Another very bad idea, placing boiling water on maggots, is something your pet would not appreciate, to say the least. Doing so can cause severe burns.
  • There is also information about using over the counter permethrin products to kill maggots. This would be something I would be very wary of doing on a cat. Cats are very sensitive to permethrins (an insecticide in many over-the-counter flea preventatives), and they can lead to intense muscle tremors and seizures.
  • Finally, using hairspray on the maggots is another unwise tip — doing so probably won’t kill them, and will only serve to give your pet a stiff hairdo.

The best method for keeping maggots off your pet is preventing them in the first place. During the summer months, if your pet lives outside, make sure they get their fur clipped for the season. Do daily cleaning of any soiled outside bedding. And if your pet has a skin infection, bite wounds or surgical incisions, keep them inside until they are healed. Also, be sure to have all wounds evaluated by a veterinarian!

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.


  1. martine says:

    my cat just came in with what i think was maggots[dead bird in the yard this week and it was full of maggots,didn t think anything about it and hosed the maggots in the earth,but i suspect he might have run close to the maggots] anyways shampooed him intensively, used vinegar to wipe everything and comed the maggots out and then vinegared him again and fed him case it s worms. i looked and them all seem out and he is more rested. i ll know tomorrow if it worked. keeping my fingers crossed.

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      Maggots are a problem because they should not be able to attach to healthy tissue, so I would be worried about a wound on your cat. Are you sure they are not fleas, lice or tapeworms? Please do not give your cat any more garlic, it is toxic to animals. Good luck!

  2. Lisa says:

    I work at a wildlife rehabilitation center, and lately we are getting so many animals in with either maggot eggs or live maggots on them. Egg removal we know how to do; for the maggots, we have been advised to flush with dilute Capstar, combing with a flea comb, and/or picking off with tweezers, and also using Capstar by mouth to eliminate any that may have gone internal (into anus, etc.). However, lately we are also seeing them in animals’ eyes! So far a squirrel and a raccoon. Any recommendations to safely remove live maggots from the eye? Also raccoon had them deep into the ear canal (worst case we’ve ever seen; unfortunately she did not survive). Not our favorite time of the year, to say the least. Since the Capstar is a little costly, is there anything else we can apply topically to kill the maggots?

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      Wow, gross in a really cool way. I do not have any better solution for maggot removal from the eye. The good news is they usually are somewhat helpful in removing the dead tissue, the bad news is they are gross and can also do harm. We often use a diluted peroxide mixture to remove them topically. This seems to really make them release, and bubble to the surface of a wound or pocket. Otherwise…..flush flush flush (and the capstar works too).

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks. Unfortunately what we are seeing is on healthy baby animals, so the maggots are doing quite a bit a damage. Squirrel is on the mend, although the eye is a total loss. Will keep him on antibiotics while it reabsorbs. Wound the maggots left was about the size of a quarter, which on a five week old baby squirrel was fairly large, in the groin/flank area. Impossible to bandage, so we are treating with collagen-based wound care to help speed granulation and also applying Silvadene, which seems to be working quite well. Luckily had not penetrated past muscle layer. This is our least favorite time of the year to be sure! In the meantime, we will be stocking up again on Capstar.

        • Dr. Stewart says:

          Keep up the good work. Sounds gross in a cool way. Although we do see maggots on “healthy” animals, they are usually not penetrating (like in the fur around a wound or trying to climb to the wound.) This sounds pretty bad in such a little animal. Was it recumbent and got a sore? That is the other time we see maggots in “healthy” animals. If they are too tightly caged, or trapped and can not move well, or down in a limb. Interesting what you are seeing. Good luck, and try flushing with diluted peroxide. It is not great for wounds (we never use it for wounds) but it can flush out maggots.

  3. Penny says:

    Neighbor kid brought me a tiny manx kitten- 1st day removed a normal looking “sticky turd” from rear end- 2nd day very matted and washed off- 3rd day same problem but found large maggots just inside the rectum. Removed visable maggots and checked as far as I could into the rectum. Kitten now walks around hunched over, strains but has a near constant feces drip. Been keeping him clean and skin around anus is healing well and that nasty “rotten” smell is gone. Kitten does not act like he feels well. Could there be more creepies inside that I am missing? I wormed him with Pyrantal a couple of days ago. Can not afford a vet until next week and the 2 local shelters want to euthanize becaue he is so little and has had those problems they do not want to deal with and is too oung to adopt right now. I am guessing he is about 7 weeks old.

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      I cant give you too much more to do with this kitten. I would highly recommend a vet visit. You might be able to have the shelter look at it for free, but not euthanize .You should certainly bring it there if it looks painful. Please have a professional look at the kitten. It might have internal colon or rectal problems, and these can be very difficult to deal with. The other possibility is that you are seeing tapeworms or other internal parasites and not maggots.

  4. gspal says:

    I was searching the net for maggot infested wounds in dogs. Your site explains the necessity of keeping pets clean and dry. I also came across another article at where I had posted a query on there being any necessity of prescribing Moxipil 250 gm tabs twice a day to a less than 10 kg abandoned maggot infested dog that has already undergone 5 days of continuous treatment at vet clinic of cleaning and dressing along with injections of Moxipil and Ivermectin. We are now doing the dressing at home.

  5. karishma says:

    my dog is suffering from maggots in mouth. is it too serious? i m taking him to vet tmrw because i saw it just now. is it smthin very serious?

  6. Ahad says:

    my cat is disabled and can’t use her back legs. I had to go out of town for a few days and came back to see maggots coming out of the rectum are and had created a tunnel in the flesh. i took out as many maggots as i could with tweasers. Please guide my what can i do to take care of it as i live in a small town and there are no vets.

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      Wow, these questions get harder and harder to answer. There is no good answer here. Why are her back legs not working? Are the maggots still there? Are they eating dead flesh or are they slowly killing her? She might have way more problems going on that we do not know about. Ok, cats with back legs not working are often caused by saddle thrombus (see other post), but it could also be trauma, infection, cancer or other causes. The maggots are there because she can not clean herself or get rid of them and she is probably dragging her rear and getting infections. First, make your best effort to seek a vet. This cat might need to be humanely euthanized, if that is not an option you can try to flush the wound with soapy water and keep her rear end clean. I would not allow her outside and do my best to keep her rear end clean and dry. Find a vet would be my best solution. This is not fair to the kitty.

  7. Jose Travieso says:

    my dog has maggots in his mouth what can i do or should do?

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      It is going to sound like a broken record, but get that dog to a vet. There is nothing I can help you with without loads more info and seeing the dog. Maggots in the mouth is a disaster usually and needs to be seen asap by a professional. Drive, walk, fly to the nearest vet.

  8. Rhiannon Kate Murray says:

    I’m hand rearing some baby birds (mourning doves I think) tiny clear maggots keep appearing in the nesting material. I’m using cut up old curtains and changing them several times a day to keep the babies clean. I’ve checked both birds over carefully and I can’t find any sign of a wound. Is it possible the birds have an internal infestation? They seem healthy otherwise and are eating well and have just started streaching and flapping around.

  9. Melica says:

    My dog had ady4 puppies and two of them had. holes and the wound has maggots, I already lost one and dont want to lose the other. I live in jamaica which a vet is very expensive and limited,please. Help

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      Why are there holes and wounds? You should flush the wounds with peroxide and clean the wounds with soap and water. If they are very serious there is not too much you can do. If they are superficial you can keep them clean and away from flies and dirt and hope they heal on their own. Can you keep the puppies inside? They should be kept clean and nursing. Other than getting antibiotics and a vet visit, this is your best bet. Good luck!

      On second thought, are the holes small with one worm in them like a cuterebra or bot fly larva? (Google this) If this is the case then you need the vet to look and remove these worms. If they are maggots then cleaning them should help. Good luck!

  10. roxy says:

    my cat came home today, and his paw has swollen and has an open wound on his arm. a few days back that wound caught maggots , which pulled out with a tweezer and cleaned with an antiseptic, applied antibacterial cream and wrapped a bandage around it. it started to recover and so the holes inside the wound where maggots thrived from were gone, leaving it nice and pink. however today i saw that it has swollen. plz tell me what i can do at home to prevent and protect my cat from maggots!? all creams and oral medicines. i can’t take him to the vet as the shop is closed right now, plus it’s way to expensive! already i’ve taken him several times in the past, making my parents furious !

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      Sounds like there is something else going on. You seem to have treated it well, but if it is still swollen and getting worse you need to see a vet. Sometimes all the cream and time you put into these cases are more costly than just seeing a local vet. Maggots in a cat abscess are not normal and are indicators of potentially something very bad. This cat needs oral antibiotics and a good vet exam. Sorry I can not be more help. See if the local vet will trade you services for cleaning the office or something?

  11. roxy says:

    thankyou for your advice :) but the country i live in, kids do’nt do local, or odd jobs such as cleaning,news paper delivery,mowing the lawn etc, i wish i could but it actually servant work, which if i do will harm our family reputation !:( hence, just tell me if i can give him augmenton(anti biotic) , as i gave him last time on my vets prescription and he recovered ! fortunately ur a doctor too, so plz just tell me the medicine and its dosage ! pleaaasee ! i’d be grateful !

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      I can not give you a diagnosis or dosage for a prescription drug. Augmentin is not the drug we use in cats here, it is a veterinary version called Clavamox that we recommend (a different mixture of drugs in the pill.) I would call your vet and ask him what you gave last time, this should not cost any money. Good luck. There is a strict limit as to what I can recommend without seeing you pet.

  12. chelsea says:

    Hi there.

    My cat was outside today and i noticed a lot of flies around her tail area. I shooed them and noticed tiny little yellow what i think are eggs. I washed her with soapy water and combed out any more that were hanging on.

    There arr a few more still around her vagina but i read that they hatch in 1-3 days. Would the bath have killed them? If i bath her agaon tomorrow and keep her inside will that do the trick? I had a good look at the eggs and there is no movement in them. They look like specs of hay almost.

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      This sounds like lice, or maybe maggot eggs. A good bath and maybe a gentle flea bath should do the trick. Try to get as many off as possible. If she is healthy and wound free the maggots should not be a problem….the lice might be a pain. Good luck.

  13. Cherie says:

    I have a 10yr old OES who is clipped. He had a dirty bottom yesterday & I washed it. His behavior has been a bit different overnight & today when I got home from work I realized he had another dirty bottom. when I looked closely I saw he had some maggots in the anus area and under his tail docking area. I have thoroughly cleaned this now and surrounding areas. The skin is red and I have applied Dettol (which a vet has previously told me kills maggots & their eggs). I am confident I have treated this well. I have some Cephalexin and want to give it to him to treat any potential bacterial infection from the maggots. Would this help him?

    • Dr. Stewart says:

      Why is he getting maggots? Can you isolate a wound or sore? Try to keep the area dry and clean with soap and water multiple times a day. I can not advise to give the cefalexin without seeing the dog, but some form of antibiotic would be advised. Keeping the area clean and dry is a priority, dettol will work but is very harsh on the skin and this should we watched for a rash, and the underlying cause should be addressed. I would try your regiment for a little and if you see no improvement or it is getting worse then go to a vet immediately.

      • Cherie says:

        Oes are prone to getting faeces caught in their coat. He has always had an issue and he is docked right back with a thick coat so that doesn’t help. I have my first one with a tail and it seems they stay far cleaner with the tail. Thanks for the advice

        • Dr. Stewart says:

          Got it, so it should be easy to keep that area clipped short and clean. We routinely clean and shave that area for dogs (and cats) and especially OES, Bearded Collies, Poodles, GR, BMD and other long hair breeds. This should be easy to fix and the wounds should heal. Be careful when you shave it not to damage the skin more! Good luck.

Leave a Reply

Site search

Blog post archives