Help! My Dog Ate A Maggot

Photo by Ed Dunens on Flickr

That’s gross! When you see your adorable pooch eating maggots, it’s pretty disgusting, but as a loving pet parent you probably know dogs will eat most anything given half a chance.

If you’re worried the maggots might harm your dog, just calm down, he’ll be fine!

However, since this might happen again there’s a few things you should know.

For instance, your dog ingesting some maggots is not much of a problem, but getting infested with them, now that’s a completely different story. That might be very dangerous.

My dog ate a maggot, what should I do?

First of all, what exactly are maggots? They’re larvae, usually fly larvae. Would you be worried if you saw your dog trying to catch a fly? No, that’s quite funny actually. His eating maggots is sort of a revenge for the fly that got away.

Your garden variety fly can lay between 500 and 2000 eggs at a time. Within a day, those eggs become larvae. These maggots are around 3-9 mm long, although there are some who grow into 20 mm monsters. Now, that’s really gross!

If your pet had a maggot snack there’s nothing you can do other then keep an eye on him, just in case! The real problem, however, are not the maggots themselves, but where did your dog find them.

Why do dogs eat maggots?

Dogs aren’t into exotic cuisine and don’t go around looking for maggots specifically. In most cases, it just happens that there are maggots on some of the stuff they consider edible.

If your dog is a scavenger, you’ve probably seen him sticking his nose in the trash can or gulping down a bit of discarded food he ran into during your daily walk. Sometimes dogs are so fast you don’t have the time to react and he’s already gobbled it before you manage to pull the leash.

Flies lay their eggs on rotten food because the larvae will need to eat. That explains, for instance, all those flies buzzing around the trash can, that’s paradise for worms. Dogs and flies see eye to eye on this one, as the most voracious pets are extatic when they get a chance to search through the trash and eat whatever they can get, with or without maggots.

At the same time, dogs can ingest maggots while devouring dead birds or other small animals. That’s even more gross, but to them it’s still food.

And now for the totally gross stuff, maggot-infested poop. Before you scold your dog for that, know that around 1 in 4 dogs will be caught eating feces at least once. Some 16% of all dogs classify as hardcore poop-eaters meaning they will be caught in the act at least five times. For some unknown reason, most dogs prefer days old, preferably frozen poop, the so-called ‘poopsicle’.  It’s a natural thing for them, so don’t be too judgmental.

If your dog sticks to his own feces that’s not a problem, that stuff has already been in his system. You should, however, be worried if your pet eats other animals’ poop as they could get infected with all sorts of bacteria or even worms. Bottom line, the maggots are of no concern, but other nasty microscopic creatures to be found in that poop could be dangerous.

Do maggots cause worms?

Maggots consist mostly of protein and the acids in your dog’s stomach will digest them, like any other food. Maggots themselves cannot cause worms in your dog, but the disgusting treat your dog just had could contain worm eggs or even real worms. 

If your dog is on a regular deworming schedule, the medicine you give him should take care of the problem, so there’s no cause for alarm.

However, if you don’t worm your dog regularly you should at least watch your dog to see if he exhibits any symptoms of worm infestation

How can I stop my dog from eating maggots?

The best thing you can do is to train your dog not to eat maggot-infested food, dead animals or feces. If this only happened while on a walk, the solution is simple, keep a close eye on the dog and the pavement, of course.

However, this only works for apartment dogs who are closely supervised while outside. Things are more complicate with dogs who have a big backyard to roam freely. In this case, train your dog from a young age to stay away from anything that might be infested with maggots. 

Clean up after your pet, by picking up the poop and disposing of it right away. It sometimes happens that pet owners become alarmed after noticing maggots in their dog’s feces.

That usually happens when the stool was not disposed of properly and it attracted flies looking for a place full of nutrients to lay their eggs. Or, it might be that those are not maggots, but actual worms, in which case you do have a problem. 

In some cases, dogs resort to eating poop in order to correct a nutrient deficiency in their system. If your dog does that regularly, you should see a vet and examine your dog’s diet to determine what it is that your dog lacks.

If you’re dog comes in proudly dragging a dead bird, take it away immediately, ignoring your pet’s outraged barking. Your pet could get worms, especially roundworms and coccidia from eating dead animals.

Also, there’s a real danger your pet will get secondary poisoning, in case the dead rat or rabbit died of some sort of poison. To be on the safe side, train him it is not OK to feast on dead animals.

As for scavengers, simply invest in a trash can with a tight lid your pet cannot open. You should not allow your dog to eat spoiled food as bacteria develop on it rather quickly and that can make your dog sick. If your dog just ate some days-old food in the garbage watch out for signs or diarrhea or vomiting. 

Why are there maggots in my dog’s food?

The same reason you sometimes find maggots in the rice or flour in your pantry. Insects can find their way into packaged food and the eggs will hatch in warm temperatures, leaving the food crawling with maggots. 

When you buy large bags of kibble there’s plenty of time for the maggots to come out, so it would be better to buy smaller bags. If you’ve just opened a bag of dog food and it’s full of maggots you should simply return it to the store and buy something else. In most cases, it’s got nothing to do with the brand, these things happen. 

Why do dogs become infested with maggots?

Maggots crawling on your dog’s skin is more than a disgusting sight. It’s a sign of a serious problem, myasis, or maggot infestation, that you should take care of right away. 

Flies only care about providing nutrition for their larvae and if your dog has a wound that’s been left untreated they will lay eggs in it. 

It’s not just a wound that attracts flies, any weak spot is good. You can find maggots around an infected bite, in skin folds, an infected ear or on fur matted with urine and feces. Any place where there’s food readily available, the maggots will thrive. Once they get through the dead or infected skin the maggots will attack the healthy skin, using saliva to digest it. Also, maggots can burrow under the skin or inside your pet’s rectum or vagina. 

You should take action as soon as you discover maggots anywhere on your pet as the tiny things can release toxins that are poisonous to dogs. Treat it as a medical emergency, as your dog might get a fever that can easily escalate to lethargy and toxic shock, which can be lethal.

Beware of so-called home remedies you might find online which recommend pouring lime, turpentine or petrol on the wound. That’s mostly useless and can harm the dog more than he already is. A safe home remedy is to squirt a vial of Ivermectin into the wound, as this kills maggots on contact. Clean the wound after half an hour and disinfect with an iodine solution. 

However, that’s a solution to be used only in an emergency when you cannot get to a vet right away. Schedule an appointment as soon as possible as your pet might need antibiotics or steroids to reduce inflammation.

Key Takeaway

Dogs don’t go out looking for maggots specifically. They ingest maggots together with something that catches their interest, like rotten food, dead animals or poop. Maggots are not toxic to dogs when ingested and they do not cause worms in a dog.

You should be more concerned about the bacteria in the spoiled food, which can give your dog food poisoning. Also, your dog might get worms from eating the poop of other animals.

Train your dog to stay away from the trash can and if you discover he is interested in more than giving a sniff to random poop, keep him on a tight leash and prevent him from eating it.