Myiasis, also called fly-strike, is one of the most painful conditions for pets that you’ve probably never heard of.
When looking for a suitable place to lay their eggs, flies are usually attracted to things with decaying or rotten smells. In 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.
Myiasis can occur in dogs, cats, rabbits, and livestock like lambs and cows. It can also happen to human beings, though not as common. Fly-strike is frequently observed during the hot humid summer months, making this a prime time to be aware.
Maggots are fly larvae (an early stage of fly development) and a maggot infestation is called myiasis.
“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,” explained Kentucky veterinarian Donald Gibson. “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.”
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.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (ASPCA) there are many things that dog owners can do to keep flies under control.
One of the most important and effective ways to manage flies is to keep a dog’s living environment clean and free from accumulating fecal matter. Outdoor garbage receptacles should be kept covered. If other animals – especially agricultural animals such as horses, cattle or pigs, but also rabbits, chickens or outdoor cats – live nearby, fly control at their living facilities will also be important.
Fly traps are available at local hardware stores, feed stores and elsewhere and usually are quite effective in helping to reduce fly numbers. They come in the form of plastic containers, glass jars, sticky tape and cardboard window traps, among others. Generally, fly traps are relatively inexpensive. Topical preparations used to control fleas and ticks may also be effective in repelling flies; these should be discussed with a veterinarian in advance of being used for this purpose.
Regular grooming will give owners an opportunity to inspect their dogs’ skin and coat. If open wounds or suspicious lumps are present, whether or not maggots or grubs are seen, a trip to the veterinarian is probably worthwhile. While prevention is the best cure, quick identification and treatment of fly-related medical conditions is the next best thing.
“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,” said Gibson. “The problem is that the majority of information out there is geared toward killing maggots in food, not on your live pets.”
According to Gibson, you should not follow any of these ‘home remedies’ for removing maggots from pets.
- Placing gasoline, oil, kerosene or lighter fluid on maggots. 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 — 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.
- 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. Do not use this on cats. 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.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-353-3101 ext. 1932 or Facebook, “Ciara Conely - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara