Lifesaving Information on dealing with
Maggots on Animals - for Rescuers and Rehabbers

What You Never Wanted To Know, But Must Know About MAGGOTS
Reprinted with permission of author – Erika K. Yery, Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator (1998)

Most rehabilitators encounter debilitated wildlife infested with fly eggs or maggots – especially during warmer months. Mammals with open wounds are susceptible to blowflies, who prefer to lay their eggs in the damaged tissue. These eggs then hatch into maggots, which look for warm and damp places like open wounds, the eyes, ears mouth, rectum, under the legs, and in the genital area of the animal. Maggots devour dead tissue and bacteria lurking in the wound. In other words, maggots are the larvae of flies and they must be removed immediately.

Fly eggs are small white to cream colored cigar-shaped objects attached to the hair, or in the ears, nose, rectum, and other body openings of the animal. Unless they are extracted IMMEDIATELY, they will hatch within a few hours and develop into small white worms (maggots) which will invade every possible opening and KILL the animal.

To remove fly eggs, apply Mineral Oil or Baby Oil to the eggs to loosen them. I use a Flea Comb, and comb as often and thoroughly as is necessary to remove all of the eggs. Carefully inspect the ears and use tweezers to remove any fly eggs. Use a cotton probe or Q-tips in the nose, eyes and rectum. I use lactated ringer solution, and flush out the impacted areas with a syringe.

It is imperative to REMOVE ALL MAGGOTS IMMEDIATELY, and it is a laborious effort to individually remove all maggots with forceps (or tweezers?) or by hand – whatever it takes to do the job. Insecticide powders DO NOT WORK, although some rehabilitators successfully apply Cornstarch, which will dry up the maggots causing many to fall off (but you will still need to take off the ones that do not fall off, by hand)..

Infected wounds must be cleaned with Peroxide. Check maggot wounds several times a Day for Several Days in case a maggot has been missed. Unless animals are treated immediately, the maggots will kill the animal in a slow and agonizing way.

This past season brought its share of animals infested with fly eggs or maggots. Most could be saved, but others had to be euthanized as the maggots had gotten out of hand and had attacked the brain and other internal organs. In one particular case that had a happy ending, a lady told me that she saw 3 baby raccoons under a tree in her yard and they were covered with a yellowish mass. I had an idea what that meant and asked her to bring them to me immediately. My house was filled to the brink with orphan wildlife that had to be fed every few hours and I had no time to spare. When the 3 orphans arrived, I dropped  everything after I saw the terrible condition that they were in. They had to be warmed, have fluids administered, and fly eggs removed – right away, of course. With all of the other animals that had to be taken care of, it was time to call for help if there was to be a chance to save these orphans. Luckily, Barbara was able to help. She arrived a short time later and started to work quickly and with great efficiency on the infant raccoons. Tina showed up unexpectedly, and was put to work  as well. Due to the tremendous effort, which took several hours, all 3 raccoon babies were saved and grew into strapping raccoons that were released in late September.

Over the years I have lost several animals that could have been saved, had well-meaning citizens NOT given the animals covered with fly eggs, a warm bath. The warm water will actually SPEED UP the (destructive) process and the fly eggs will thrive, and hatch into maggots. By the time I received these animals, it was unfortunately TOO LATE to save them. 

As I was researching this article, I noticed that none of the many rehabilitator manuals and papers that I have accumulated over the years provide detailed information on this critically important topic of maggots and blowflies.  This is amazing, since this is one of the MOST COMMON LIFE-THREATENING problems impacting wildlife. "

An informative article providing additional information on this topic follows:
“Blow Flies and Their Larva: Or What You Never Wanted to Know About Maggots”

Blow Flies and Their Larva: Or What You Never Wanted to Know About Maggots
(excerpted here) By – Jo Balliet, Director of the Wounded Knee Wildlife Refuge, Tabernacle, NJ (1998)

Blow flies, as we normally think of them, lay eggs on carcasses of dead animals and on animal feces. But as every veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator can attest, they lay eggs on live, debilitated or non-viable animals as well.

The life cycles of the fly is fascinating when looked at from a clinical viewpoint. Wildlife rehabilitators come into frequent contact with some stage of their life cycle and if we had our preference, it would be only during the early egg stage.

When the eggs are freshly laid, they are cream-white, dry, and if viewed through a magnifying glass,  beautiful in their layered crystalline symmetry. As this stage, they are relatively easy to remove from the animal’s fur with a fine-toothed comb. As an egg matures, it becomes corn-meal yellow in color, and increasingly tacky, making its removal more difficult, time consuming and stressful to the animal. At approximately 12 hours, the egg will climax into a moist, glue-like consistency. At that stage, it becomes a miniscule, very small soft-bodied, footless larva, or as commonly referred to – a maggot. The maggot, without delay, begins to relentlessly devour flesh.

Scientifically, maggots, only eat dead (necrotic) tissue. BUT, by eating away dead cells, they are exposing fresh cells, Those quickly become another layer of dead cells until the host animal ("alive") becomes a carcass ("dies because of the maggots eating its flesh") and is totally consumed. ………………………………………

...............(continued)  During the early stages of egg laying on a live animal, the fly seldom deposits the eggs in open wounds, or into the body orifices, such as ears, eyes, mouth or anus. The INITIAL (first) eggs are seemingly laid in well-thought out secret areas. The eggs will be found deep in the fur, across the shoulders, the back of the head, rear flanks, and in the groin area. There they are not readily visible. Should the egg-laying cycle be interrupted, the few eggs already laid become newly-hatched maggots, devouring tissue as they migrate to enter a wound or bodily opening. There, unseen and undisturbed, IRREVERSIBLE damage may occur. Only after thousands of eggs have been laid, which could be in a matter of hours, the flies will lay eggs all over the body, including deep inside ear cavities and other body openings. If we could assign intelligence to the Blow Fly, we could then explain why, in the first few hours of laying eggs on baby skunks, well-camouflaged fly eggs are found mainly in the cream-white stripes of fur, with prolonged egg-laying, the latter egg deposits are found in the skunk’s luxurious black fur as well. ………………………………