Dealing with maggots

Info for carers

 

Members of the public finding a hog with fly-strike please contact us urgently. These animals need to be cleaned up properly and then medicated. It’s highly likely you won’t have everything required to hand so please contact us quickly.

Carers who have never dealt with maggots before will meet them sooner or later. Everyone does things slightly differently but we all know that we need to remove them fast. Any animal that arrives injured, sick or orphaned when the weather is warm and muggy is pretty much guaranteed to have been hit by fly strike.

When we get a call the first thing we do is instruct the finder to keep the hog warm and if possible use a hot water bottle or heat mat. This is good for the hog but equally as good for the fly eggs which hatch with heat. Ask your finder to look for clumps of fly eggs, if seen they must get the animal help fast, waiting til morning could mean it’s too late.

Fly eggs look like clumps of tiny white grains of rice. These quickly hatch into similarly tiny maggots so anyone with dodgy eyesight, wear your glasses. Once hatched the maggots head for somewhere dark and moist so you are most likely to meet them in wounds, ears, eyes, mouth, anus, penis/vulva and occasionally in fur or between spines. Check the hog thoroughly as any you miss will start to eat and grow. Fly eggs can be well hidden at the base of the fur, newly hatched maggots will head for the skin.

 

flystrike

Fly eggs. Tiny maggots can be seen on the penile sheath in this photo.

 

Useful items to have to hand

NB. Some of the items recommended here may not be easily available so use warm salty water instead.

  • Small rounded tip or flat ended tweezers
  • 1-2.5ml syringes
  • cotton buds
  • cotton pads
  • something to use to remove eggs in spines and fur*
  • saline solution or salt water
  • Otodex***
  • Heat mat and absorbent surface such as a towel
  • Warm salt water

So, the observant amongst you will notice the list contains a heat mat and why would you want one of those when you don’t want maggots to hatch? You are likely going to be making the animal wet and you need to keep them warm. Wet and sick means cold.

Start by checking for wounds. Work your way carefully from back to front looking for puncture wounds amongst the spines then look underneath in the fur. Babies will be very wriggly, adults are likely to be very ill and not curling. If you cannot fully examine them and there is flystrike or you can see maggots then get them to a vet to be knocked out and cleaned up urgently. Once maggots have found a suitable place they will start to eat and you need to stop them before they do too much damage. If you find an open wound with maggots, use warm saline solution or warm salt water and apply directly into it UNLESS it is on the face or genital areas.

Next go for ears. Put one or two drops of  warm salt water in each ear. Hold the ear flap and pull upwards and backwards exposing the ear canal. The drops need to go in there not run down the fur. If there are maggots they will come out, don’t panic, carry on, the salt water will start to dry them out.

Place thumb and forefinger above and below the eye then pull the lids apart. Sounds easy but a wriggly baby won’t be too happy, try not to crush the little one by holding the body too tight, they still need to breathe. Once the eye is open, if you just see pink and no sign of movement then it’s probably clear but to be safe put a drop of saline in each one. Don’t panic if you can’t see an eyeball. When they shut their eyes the eyelid moves forwards towards the nose, to see it you need to slide the lids backwards and slightly upwards/downwards.

If maggots are present you will see a writhing mass of white. Fill a 1ml syringe with saline or salt water, hold the lids open, put the tip of the syringe on the side of the face just behind the eye, not on the eyeball, then squirt fast. This should wash the bulk of the maggots out but repeat. Carefully look in the eye for any strays moving the lids around for any trapped underneath. If you see an odd one dip a cotton bud in saline and carefully try to hook it out. If you can’t, leave it until you’ve done the other eye then go back to it, it may well be on the surface by then and can be flushed.

Now check the nose, you can flush this with saline but be careful and hold the hog face pointing towards the floor so it doesn’t inhale the fluids! Flush gently.

Now the mouth, try to look in it to see the extent of any maggots but to be safe flush anyway, if there are maggots in ears and or eyes chances are they’ll be in the mouth too. Fill a syringe with saline. With the hog facing away from you, put the tip of the syringe between the lips right at the back, put your finger under the hogs nose to try to get the mouth slightly open then squirt hard and fast towards the nose. Any maggots should come out on your mat. Repeat until clear.

Now check the rear end. You must not squirt stuff into genital orifices. Instead use warm saline on a cotton pad and gently wipe it over the surface. If there are any prolapses do not do this instead flush with saline then get the hog to a vet.

By now you will have a very wet hog and dying maggots everywhere so you need to start cleaning up.

*We use a plastic cat flea comb/plastic head lice comb which has been cut into various different sized slices using strong shears. Other people use a toothbrush but we find the maggots get stuck in the bristles.

 

toolsCut the comb to various widths

 

Comb through the fur with the narrow tooth side and spines with the wide tooth. Wipe maggots and fly eggs off on a cloth, rinse the comb in salt water then carry on combing. Once finished the hog will be very wet hence the heat mat.

 

Before placing the hog in a warm bed to rest. Check the orifices again for any stragglers especially eyes and mouth. Remove if necessary then give an injection of Ivermectin to kill off anything internal. You will need to get the animal to a vet to have it done.

 

Tiny babies that need feeding can be done now if they are warm as they don’t have a lot of fur to get wet, but otherwise put the animal in a warm bed and allow it to warm up and dry out before attempting to feed or give oral fluids.

You may find that the maggots have been chewing on the surface of the skin in the orifices making it very sore. We use pawpaw ointment (available from a pharmacy or supermarket) for a few days which is a rapid healer.  (Please DO NOT  use Dettol, Fly Spray or Tea Tree Oil at all). If any wounds are open and raw then antibiotic cover will also be needed.

Some of you will be wondering what the tweezers are for as we’ve not mentioned them. If you’re very careful you can sometimes use them to pick off entire clumps of fly eggs but the main use is usually on wounded adults. Strimmer injuries in particular often present you with a stream of large fat maggots which will have done considerable damage. While waiting for the vet to call back out of hours, rather than spend the time feeling ill and panicking try to make the hog as comfortable as possible and pick the maggots off as they appear, dumping them in a bowl of water.

NB. If you don’t have Otodex use warm salt water instead.