Treating Maggot Wounds in Dogs

Maggot wounds are very common. The good news is that unless a large part of the dog’s body or organs have been eaten away they are very easy to heal. Unfortunately, any number of ‘home’ treatments complicate situations for dogs whereas actual treatment is straightforward and usually requires no hospitalization.

What are maggots and how do they get to dogs? 

A puncture wound on a dog’s skin, especially a place he can’t lick, can easily turn into a maggot wound. The most common places are the head or the back of the head, the paws, the tail or base of the tail, etc. Puncture wounds could happen because of injury or even because of excessive scratching. Dogs will lick any puncture wound but if they can’t and if a fly can sit on it, it will lay eggs and the larvae become the maggots we see. The problem is that eggs hatch in thousands and they have a voracious appetite. Essentially the larvae are eating the dog alive and they can do it quickly.

The good thing is the maggots also keep the wound aseptic. The tissue has no bacterial load and it heals VERY FAST. All you need to do is kill the maggots, prevent recurrence, and avoid damaging the tissue.

How do you treat a maggot wound?

Before treatment, you need to identify the wound. Even if it is not exposed, you can tell it is a maggot wound by its:

  1. Smell: Maggot wounds have a very strong putrid smell and
  2. Inflammation around the area: The body tries to defend the advance of tissue being eaten alive and causes massive swelling.

The most commonly used stuff that is poured inside a maggot wound includes turpentine, chloroform, tincture, even petrol. DON’T. These are painful substances for the dog and have little immediate effect on the maggots. If you see maggots alive in a wound follow these steps:

Dressing the wound

Get yourself a vial of ivermectin injection (available in vet shops). Take a 2/5ml syringe and draw the liquid in it. Ivermectin is a very viscous liquid so is it NOT easy to draw: to draw 2 ml say, push 2 ml of air and then draw.

Discard the needle, use only the syringe to squirt the ivermectin carefully ‘inside’ the wound. After this step do not do anything for half an hour other than cover the wound if you can. Ivermectin kills maggots on contact but it needs to seep in thoroughly.

After half an hour, use tweezers to take out the dead maggots.

Flush the wound with saline (RL) then with povidone iodine (betadine). Pat dry. Dress the wound with an antibiotic and bandage if required. If the dead maggot is left inside (they can be very small- they are readily absorbed by the body. But pay attention that no live maggots are left in. (See next step)

Check wound every second day- do not wash and dress every day since the tissue needs time to regenerate.

Over the period of healing of the wound, repeat the last two steps.

Oral/injectible medication, post-dressing

Put the dog on a course of Prednisalone (Wysalone) which is a steroid that will reduce inflammation and make up for the extensive loss of platelets fighting the infection. 10 mg/20 kg is a sufficient dose. Do this for 5 days.

The antibiotic could be plain amoxillin or amoxillin + potassium clavunate (which is a fifth-generation broad spectrum antibiotic. This is a human medicine available at drug stores/chemists). 325 mg for 20 kg is sufficient for five days.

The medicines described above can be given as injectibles as well and might be a better course of action if you can do so.

Nutrition

Put the dog on a high protein nutritious diet. While ‘Recovery’ and such brands are recommended, just boiled chicken or boiled eggs are great proteins by themselves.

You may add oral iron supplements such as Haemup to combat anemia.

Additional support

Remember these instructions are to give you the first line of defence to support the dog in your care and any situation may differ on diagnosis after a physical inspection and a CBC + Renal/Liver function test.

The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.

Do you find this information useful? For more medical, legal, and general advice regarding dogs and dog care, visit the VOSD website.