Should I Be Worried If My Dog Ate Maggots?

Dog ate maggots out of food bowl
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What should you do if your dog ate maggots?

Maggots, white and squirmy, are simply the larvae of flies such as houseflies and blowflies. Even though they bear resemblance to more harmful parasites like roundworms and tapeworms, maggots by themselves are usually not dangerous.

As disgusting as it sounds, they are actually rich in protein!

The acid in your dog’s stomach is typically strong enough to combat any ill effects from live maggots, unless of course if your dog ate a huge amount. In that case, your dog may experience stomach pain and vomiting when trying to digest the larvae.

However, the one thing to consider is what the maggots were eating before getting eaten by your dog.

Maggots are often found on rotten meat or spoiled food ripe with bacteria. Obviously your dog could experience health issues if it eats maggots with that harmful bacteria inside them.

Maggots are also commonly seen on animal excrement outside. Many dogs have a condition called coprophagia, where they find poop particularly…appetizing.

If the maggots were on or inside poop, you should contact your vet to get a deworming prescription. Animal feces can contain worms and their eggs, of which your dog will ingest alongside the maggots.

The most serious issue that maggots could pose is not from your dog eating them, but by them merely being in close proximity. Myiasis can occur if a dog has cuts or wounds and flies or maggots are able to latch on.

My Dog Ate Maggots (With A Side Of Rotten Meat). Will It Get Sick?

“What happens if my dog eats maggots?”– A more common question than you might think.

Most of the time, maggots will not be a massive issue for your dog.

Due to their scavenging nature, dogs and puppies have a natural habit of wanting to eat everything they find outside.

Dogs’ gut flora has evolved over the ages to digest even rotten or raw meat- so maggots should pose little difficulty. They will be readily digested by strong stomach acids, just like any other foods that your dog eats.

What can cause bigger problems are the bacteria and viruses that your dog might have ingested, either through the maggots, or by them also having a piece of whatever the larvae were enjoying. This could range from rotten fruit, to a dead squirrel, to animal droppings.

Vomiting and diarrhea are somewhat normal reactions, but a significant change in behavior such as lethargy or loss of appetite could be a sign of something more serious. This will warrant a quick trip to the vet for medical advice and treatment.

By being in close proximity with maggots, dogs also run the risk of contracting a disease called myiasis. This condition will be explored in a separate section below.

The Dangers Of Eating Rotten Meat

Eating rotten meat can make dogs very sick. Even though dogs’ stomachs are very acidic, some bacteria such as salmonella and staphylococcus may still be able to survive and infect the body.

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Symptoms of food poisoning always include some combination of vomiting, reduced appetite, or diarrhea. Dehydration and lethargy are also common.

If the food poisoning is severe enough, dogs can also display neurological issues such as lack of balance, tremors, and even seizures. The symptoms and severity of food poisoning will differ depending on how much rotten food your dog ate and its stomach sensitivity.

The Perils Of Diseased Wild Animals

If a dog eats the carcass of a wild animal, it is possible that it may become infected with various parasites such as roundworm or coccidia. Shared symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.

If your dog were to eat maggots off a dead wild animal such as a rabbit or rat, there may also be a risk of secondary poisoning. How dangerous this is will depend on the original toxicity of the poison and how much of the animal was eaten.

If your dog was to become poisoned, it could show signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting or coughing of blood, jaundice, pale gums, and excessive thirst or urination.

When Dogs Eat Poop

Yes, dogs really do have a tendency to eat poop.

It’s called coprophagia, and it’s thought to be driven by a few different possible factors:

  • A desire to balance the microbiome in the stomach
  • Unconsciously trying to pick up nutrients that a dog might be lacking
  • Behavioral reasons such as boredom, anxiety, fear or attention-seeking.

I don’t think that you need anyone to tell you that eating feces isn’t healthy. Wild animal droppings are frequently full of parasites and bacteria, and these can be transferred to your dog if it happens to ingest it.

This can result in stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and parasitic infestation.

How Can Maggots Give My Dog Myiasis?

Warning: Things are about to get a bit queasy.

If your dog ate maggots, there is also a chance that it could contract a disease called myiasis. This it what it looks like:

Myiasis on dog
Uwe Gille / CC BY Creative Commons

Your dog has a higher chance finding and eating larvae if they are attracted to him or her in the first place. However, eating maggots is the least of your problems when compared to myiasis.

While eating maggots on rotten flesh or feces could cause health problems in your dog, infestation (myiasis) is an even worse scenario.

Dogs play around in grassy areas, where rodents and rabbits live. These other animals may carry maggots, which can then get transferred to your dog especially if it has any cuts or open wounds.

Myiasis occurs when flies lay eggs in an open cut on the dog. The eggs hatch and turn into maggots, which then eat the dog’s skin tissue. They maggots eat and eat, growing bigger as they dig further into the wound. They will also eat healthy tissue, which causes further damage.

The maggots live inside the wound, preventing it from recovering. They will then spread progressively throughout the body and cause serious health issues for the dog.

As the maggots bury more and become rooted in the skin and body, they will start chewing away at the essential organs. As the maggots live inside your dog, they release toxins through excrement which will begin to make the dog sick with symptoms such as fever, lethargy, and shock.

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There are two primary types of myiasis:

● Cavitary myiasis – A less common situation where the maggots spread inside typical body cavities like nostrils, mouth, and ears.

● Cutaneous myiasis – An infestation of the maggots within a wound or on the dog’s skin.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Myiasis?

If your dog already has sores, wounds, or skin damage, it can make it prone to maggot infestations.

Even if the cuts may initially be small, they can become enlarged if your dog is allowed to bite or scratch at it. Scratches from other objects or fights with other dogs can further irritate or make the wound bigger and more accessible to flies.

If your dog experiences consistent rashes, allergies, and infection, these can all increase the risk of developing myiasis. Bad hygiene can also contribute to a dog being more susceptible to maggot infestations.

Myiasis typically always happens in the places on a dog’s skin where it cannot be reached by the tongue.

Dog wounds typically heal quicker when they can lick because of the tissue-repairing saliva. When dogs lick their wounds where fly eggs are present, the tongue will most likely be able to eliminate them in the affected area.

Myiasis typically occurs in hot and humid areas, or during the summer when flies are more likely to lay eggs.

If your dog spends a lot of time in grassier areas where other rodents live, they can attract the maggots that these other animals may carry. Domestic dogs can also contract myiasis from each other because the larvae can get passed through infected fur.

How To Tell If Your Dog Has Maggots

Maggots in a feeding trough
Cory Doctorow / CC BY-SA 

If you can spot the maggots on your dog before it can eat them, you will be able to eliminate them successfully.

The most common sign of maggots in dogs is their striking appearance on your dog’s coat, skin, or wound. These maggots are usually found one at a time, and female flies can lay up to 75 to 150 eggs in one sitting.

Maggots are easy to spot if you look closely at your dog’s fur, because you will usually be able to see them moving or swirling around. The standard size of a maggot is ¼-1 inch. Once they begin to dig into the skin, you will be able to identify them by the individual holes that they create through burrowing.

You may also discover fly eggs on your dog’s coat and skin. These usually come in the shape of a stick and will be as large as a single grain of rice.

If you notice that your dog is always getting up, scratching, biting, fidgeting, or scraping himself, you should monitor for myiasis.

Check the areas that your pet cannot lick first, which are behind the ears, center of the back, and head. You can also look in warmer, moist places like under its tail, or between the toes.

Myiasis Prevention And Treatment

There are various ways to prevent and treat myiasis. Regardless if you live in an urban or rural area, you should always take extra precautions to ensure your dog does not eat maggots- or contract them.

Prevention is best achieved through closely following your pet’s deworming or vaccination calendar. This is something that should be provided by your vet.

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It is also a good idea to investigate your dog’s skin and coat daily to ensure that it does not have open wounds or cuts. If you find any cuts or wounds, proceed to clean thoroughly, apply antiseptics, and put on a breathable bandage.

Proper hygiene is also a very effective defense against maggots. Bathe and brush your dog regularly to remove any feces, urine or dirt from its coat. By eliminating these dirty areas you can lower the chances of underlying skin problems, which give rise to myiasis.

Dogs need to get exercise and run around to build their stamina. However, if you have less mobile or older dogs, you should try and minimize their time outdoors- especially in grassy areas.

Ultimately, it’s not difficult to keep maggots far away from your dog. If you keep them inside and check their skin consistently, you can prevent myiasis from setting in.

However, once myiasis has occurred, it needs to be treated actively. The best choice is always to take your dog to the vet, where they can remove visible maggots safely and quickly.

The vet may use hydrogen peroxide to firstly kill the maggots, and then disinfect the wound with iodine or other antibacterial solution. The wound will then be wrapped in an airtight manner in order to suffocate any remaining larvae, though this needs to be replaced daily in order to let the wound breathe.

If it is a serious case where maggots have dug deeper into the body, antibiotics and other worm-killing medications may be provided.

In Summary

If your dog ate maggots and nothing but maggots, it will most likely be just fine. Fly eggs and maggots don’t stand a chance against a dog’s highly acidic digestive system, and will be killed when they enter the stomach.

However, maggots can bring with them dangerous bacteria that can potentially be harmful to a dog. Maggots are usually found on rotting organic material or feces, and these are frequently festering with viruses or parasites that can cause health problems.

If your dog eats the material as well as the maggots, then it could be at risk of contracting any viruses or diseases that are present.

Eating maggots and their decaying food source may not even be the biggest problem.

Being in close proximity to maggots when the dog has open cuts or wounds can cause myiasis. Though this starts on the surface, it has the potential to burrow deeper into the body if left unchecked and untreated.

The best course of action is always to keep a dog from getting close to any dead animal or rotten meat which might be infested with maggots. Check their body and skin regularly for any signs of infection or fly larvae, and help your dog to keep maggots far, far away.

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