Dogs get mango worms when coming into contact with soil that has been contaminated by the larvae. The larvae will then painlessly burrow under your dog’s skin and continue to grow for two to three weeks. You will not notice the infection until the maggots have grown large enough to form small bumps.
One of the most frightening infestations that your dog can face is mango worms. If left untreated, a mango worm infection can cause severe health issues. If you suspect your dog has become a host to mango worms, it’s important to get them into the vet as soon as possible.
Although it is possible to remove the mango worms yourself, we recommend having a medical professional do the removal. When done incorrectly, you can cause more pain for your dog and discomfort.
However, in this guide, we will go into detail on how to remove the mango worms yourself if you choose to do so.
Mango Worms Are Rare in The US
Mango worms are simply the larvae of Cordylobia anthropophagi, commonly known as the mango fly, tumba fly, putzi fly, or skin maggot fly. The first recorded instance of human contact with these flies occurred in Senegal in 1862.
While usually found in East and Central Africa, sometimes the larvae of these flies manage to infect a host shortly before they travel to the United States or other countries. They are rarely a problem unless you or your dog visit a warmer climate in Africa.
How Does a Dog Get Mango Worms?
Mango flies lay their eggs in soil that has been contaminated by urine or feces. They have been known to lay them on damp clothing or bed linens that have been hung out to dry. The larvae hatch in two to three days and begin looking for a host in which to grow.
They attach themselves to unbroken skin and penetrate the skin without causing pain or discomfort. Soon, the skin begins to swell and become infected. In humans, this produces ulcers and boil-like sores on the skin.
In dogs (the most common domestic animal to become the host), mango worm infestations look like a series of pimples filled with pus that grow until the maggots develop enough to burst out of the skin and fall off. A definitive diagnosis can only be made when the larvae are found inhabiting the skin. A mango worm infestation on a dog looks like something straight out of a horror film!
Signs Your Dog Has Mango Worms
Mango worms are too small to be noticed when they penetrate the skin, so you will not see them on your dog until the maggots are large enough to form small pimples. Look for these signs and symptoms:
- Small pimples beginning to form.
- Boils that have what appears to be a worm wiggling in the pus pocket (Yuck!)
- Black dots forming on the top of a pimple.
- Your dog begins scratching at the pimple.
- Your dog shows discomfort and pain at the site of the sores.
- Your dog paws at the pimples, trying to scratch them.
- Your dog licks at the sites where the mango worms have penetrated the skin.
- Elevated Heart Rate
Remember, just because they aren’t common in the United States doesn’t mean they aren’t here! Don’t assume it’s something else. When in doubt, get your dog to the vet for a diagnosis.
How To Treat Mango Worms in Dogs
The good news is that there are effective methods to quickly and safely remove mango worms. We recommend taking a trip to the vet for removal, but if you’d like to do it yourself, you can try the third method at home.
If you take your pup to the vet, they may try hydraulic expulsion. This is when the vet injects each boil with lidocaine and epinephrine. In most cases, the larvae will be pushed out entirely by the force of the liquid. Some of the worms may need to be removed with forceps.
Another common treatment of mango worms is suffocation and pressure. In this process, you remove any scab that may have formed on top of the boil. Oil may help you to rub it off without hurting your dog. Then, cover the black dot on top of the boil with wax, Vaseline, or some other type of product that eliminates airflow. The worms will begin to crawl out in search of oxygen. You will be able to remove them with forceps or tweezers.
“Popping The Pimple” Method
Another simple method for treating a mango worm infection is squeezing and ejecting. In this process, you may need to enlarge the hole’s size with a small incision or by allowing the skin to break when you squeeze out the mango worm.
Eject the worm by pushing both sides together, forcing them out of the skin. Tweezers or forceps can be used to grip the worms and remove them as you squeeze. Make sure you remove the worm in one piece so that no fragments remain under the skin. Any fragments left under the skin will worsen the infection, so pull with gentle, even pressure.
The best way to prevent a mango worm infection is to avoid traveling to areas the mango fly is commonly found, such as East and Central Africa. However, if you do travel, remember the following three things to prevent future infection.
Avoid Contaminated Dirt
Avoid areas with the scent of urine or feces. Mango flies lay their eggs in the dirt that has been contaminated by bodily waste. Avoiding dirt in regions with these smells can help you and your dog steer clear of breeding grounds.
Use High Heat
Do not dry washed clothing, bedding, or towels in the open air or in a room with open windows where mango flies might fly in. Try to dry your clothes in a dryer machine on high heat. Heat is the best way to kill and mango worms that have hatched in clothing, bedding, or towels. If you have dried your clothes in less than optimal conditions, use an iron to smooth out the material. The high heat will kill any mango worms.
Avoid Objects That Have Been on The Ground
Let’s say you had to take your dog’s collar off and it ended up on the ground. Make sure you avoid putting the collar on until you’ve thoroughly washed it with high heat. The same is true with backpacks, clothing, or other materials that you may put on your dog if you’re in an area contaminated with mango worms. If the worms have climbed onto these objects, then they may transfer to you or your dog.
When to Take Your Dog to the Vet
Taking your dog to the vet to treat mango worm infections should occur as early as possible. Even if you treat the infection sites that you see, there may be many that you cannot see because they are newer or have not fully developed yet. The vet will also be able to tell the difference between mango fly larvae boils and regular insect bites.
Take your dog to the vet when you notice:
- Multiple pimples or boils forming on your dog’s skin.
- Your dog is scratching at boils as they grow larger.
- Boils filling with pus that appear to have worms moving inside them.
- When black dots begin to form on the boils.
- When a series of rashes or boils begin to form on your dog.
Can Mango Worms Kill a Dog?
The unfortunate truth is that if left untreated, mango worms can sometimes kill a dog. But even if the worms don’t kill the dog, they can cause severe health problems depending on where they latch. If they latch around the eye, it can cause your dog to go blind or even lose their eye. If they latch on the feet, the infection could cause dogs to permanently lose some of their claws.
You also run the risk of other infections if the worms are not properly treated as soon as possible.
What’s The Difference Between Mango Worms and Other Common Worms?
The most significant difference is the visible size. Most normal worms will grow internally, and you may notice them in your dog’s feces. However, Mango worms grow just under the surface of the skin, starting out as small little bumps but will eventually form into what looks like large pimples.
Mango worms are a nightmare for many dog owners. Not only does it look disturbing (we didn’t include pictures for a reason), but they can cause serious health concerns, which is why they need to be treated as soon as possible. Keep your dog healthy and safe by recognizing the early signs of mango worm infestation. Take your dog to the vet right away if you see the signs of a possible infection. Even if it is not mango worms, it could be another medical issue your dog needs taken care of.
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