Maggot infestation

What is it?          Cause          Symptoms          Diagnosis          Treatment          Prevention

What is it?

Maggots are very common on street dogs, particularly when the dog has an open wound or a skin condition. They can also be found in the eye (e.g. after a dog fight) and in the mouth.

Myiasis is the parasitic infestation of the body of a live mammal by fly larvae (maggots) that grow inside the host while feeding on its tissue. Although flies are most commonly attracted to open wounds and urine- or feces-soaked fur, some species (including the most common myiatic flies, the botfly, blowfly and screwfly) can create an infestation even on unbroken skin and have been known to use moist soil and non-myiatic flies (such as the common housefly) as vector agents for their parasitic larvae.



Flies lay eggs on an open wound or on faeces around the anus. The flies turn into maggots (larvae).


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.



Diagnosis is visual. White worm-like insects, a bit larger than a grain of rice, are seen on the skin. They move and wriggle. There is usually a strong and unpleasant smell associated with maggot infestation.


Although maggots are known for keeping a wound clean – in olden days they were used on humans for that very purpose – they also eat away at the dog’s flesh and can cause toxicity.

A common ‘treatment’ throughout India is to pour Phenyl on the maggots. This is not recommended. It can burn the dog and cause much pain, making the dog run away from you and from treatment.

Carefully, cut the hair away from the area around the wound. The hair contains bacteria and can keep on re-infecting the wound.

An effective and simple treatment is to pour some oil (coconut oil, neem oil, etc) on the maggots. This deprives them of oxygen and they’ll quickly come running out. Then you can just pick them off using tweezers or some tissue or gauze. Then flush the affected area with water, which will help to remove any unhatched eggs.  

Afterwards, you can put some turmeric on the affected area. Turmeric has excellent antiseptic qualities. Or you can use an antibiotic cream/ointment – ask a vet which one to use.


Wounds – and the number of maggots in them – can grow very quickly, particularly in the hot and humid months. Keep a close eye on your local dogs and if you notice that one has a wound (even a small wound), keep it clean and consider using something like Topicure spray. That will help it to heal before it starts to attract maggots. Topicure is a good item to keep in a first aid kit.