Larval myiasis: What is bugging your pet
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
In the warm months of summer, insect populations explode, especially flies — big flies, little flies, fruit flies, blue bottle flies, every sort of fly for every occasion. The sad reality is for some of these flies, their food source may be your pet.
Any small wound or sore, any wet matted hair or fur, or any feces stuck to a pet may attract flies to lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, small maggots emerge and begin to feed on the infected areas. Some are able to borrow into the wound or healthy tissue and create a deep pocket of larval infestation, known as larval myiasis. Some will even penetrate natural orifices such as the nostrils or rectum.
With long-haired dogs or relatively free living outdoor pets, this condition can quickly become overwhelming as hundreds or thousands of eggs may be on the damaged tissue. For these susceptible pets, proper wound management, observation, professional grooming, and even short vacations indoors can prevent this severe condition.
We have recently seen an increase in the number of young pets, both cats and dogs, presenting with a swollen area of skin with a small hole in the center. Close observation would show movement in this small hole that is the temporary home of a fly larva of the cuterebra family. This large larva lives in the skin pocket feeding off tissue fluids until it is fully mature and pops out to later become a large, blue-bodied fly. This fly will then lay larvae onto another small pet or rodent, and the process starts all over again.
Veterinarians are skilled in removing these larvae intact before they reach the emerging stage and can assist with wound management of the site. Ask your veterinarian about proper wound management, and have your pet treated immediately if maggots are seen in a wound or crawling in and out of the rectum.
There may be sprays or oral medications available at your veterinary office to treat the early stages of larval infestation. Advanced cases may require hospitalization and possibly anesthesia to treat the wound or manually remove embedded larvae.
Again, prevention is always the best course. Closely monitor those outdoor pets, especially the older, debilitated, or injured ones, to prevent this maggot mania.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.