Maggots. How We Veterinarians Handle Them.


Could there be anything more gross? The very thought of them makes most people shiver.

Tonight our regional veterinarian’s association will have a continuing education meeting and a meal will be served. The topic will likely include aspects that would turn the stomachs of mere mortals, but we veterinarians will chow down right through it.

You may recall the story of Turbo who came to our hospital really sick a few weeks ago and had maggots around his perineum from having soiled himself. It’s getting to be that time of year.

To remove maggots we first chill them with an anesthetic spray, then pick them off one by one. We have to be careful to flush them down the toilet when we’re finished. If we drop them into a trash can they will soon mature into flies and swarm around! Sometimes a repeat application of spray is required when maggots are in layers or a wound is so deep it harbors maggots in multiple levels of tissue.

By “that time of year” I mean it’s warm. Maggots are the larval stage of common flies. Flies like to lay their eggs on organic material so that when the eggs hatch and the larvae begin to feed they don’t have far to go to find a meal. As the weather warms up eggs hatch faster, which means that maggots appear faster where a wound or filthy conditions exist.

Maggots are not actually causing any harm in a wound. In fact, they are eating the organic material, including dead flesh that may be present, so a type of debridement (cleaning of nonviable tissue) is occurring. The process is very similar to using medical leeches on a wound.

It’s time to leave for the meeting.

I hear they’re serving rice.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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