What Happens if a Dog Eats Maggots? Should I Be Worried?

dog eating dirt

If your dog ate maggots, you have nothing to worry about. A common misconception is that when dogs eat maggots, it can cause worms. Thankfully, maggots are digested as normal and will not cause intestinal worms. You can rest easy knowing your dog is ok. 

Finding maggots in your food is probably one of the most horrifying dining experiences you could have. 

For humans, consuming maggots often leads to feeling quite sick. So if you catch your dog chowing down on something maggot-infested, it’s not too surprising that you would be very concerned. 

Fortunately, a dog’s digestive tract differs significantly from a human’s because it is naturally built to digest raw meat, another thing that often makes humans sick. 

Rushing your dog to the vet after finding maggots in his food is likely unnecessary. However, you should watch him for a few days in case he begins to show unusual signs.

While maggots themselves are relatively harmless, their presence signals disease and decay. These larger problems can harm both dogs and humans. Seek the source of the maggots to address the underlying issue.

My Dog Ate Maggots – Should I Be Concerned?

Dogs have hearty digestive acids that are good at digesting protein. Your dog probably won’t even have an upset stomach unless he ate a very large number of maggots. 

As with other stomach upsets, a small amount of vomiting or diarrhea shortly after consumption is expected. If your dog develops a fever or is vomiting for over 48 hours after eating the maggots, consider contacting your vet.

One understandable misconception about maggots is that eating them can cause worms in dogs. The truth is, maggots are digested as usual and cannot cause intestinal worms. 

Putting your dog on a regular deworming preventative medication can cause some peace of mind if you think he has been exposed, but maggots specifically are not a cause for concern.

If you find white, maggot-like creatures in your dog’s feces, it is important to determine whether they appeared before or after the feces was passed. 

If your dog’s feces sits outside for a while, it is not uncommon for flies to lay their eggs and create maggots on the feces. 

This obviously means that the maggots did not come from inside your dog. If your dog passed the organisms, there is a chance they are worms, not maggots. Taking a fecal sample to your vet can help determine the answer.

Maggots Signal A Bigger Problem

While you can breathe a sigh of relief that maggots won’t harm your dog’s intestinal tract, the sight of maggots can signal a bigger problem. It is a good idea to try to determine the source of the maggots.

Searching For The Source

If you know your dog’s approximate location when eating the maggots, see if you can go find them. 

This can be a gross activity, but it will give you essential information. This is easy if you discover maggots in your dog’s dry food, but an outdoor dog can present a bigger challenge. Try looking through your yard or retracing the steps of your most recent walk.

If you find the source of the maggots, try to determine the severity of the decay. Are there only a few maggots or many? Is the food only slightly rotted or extremely decayed? 

If you can tell how much your dog ate, that is useful information as well. The more decayed the food and the more your dog ate, the higher likelihood of food poisoning.

Maggots are the larvae of flies. Flies are attracted to rot and decay, where they lay their eggs. Whether it is a dead animal or a piece of food thrown on the ground, the rotting matter is usually full of bacteria and other harmful organisms. 

While the maggots cannot harm dogs directly, eating a piece of rotten food full of bacteria can give a dog food poisoning, also known as Garbage Toxicosis. 

Along with the expected symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and dehydration, the toxins produced inside your dog’s body can even lead to weakness, shock, and death. 

If you determine your dog ate a large amount of rotten food, keep an eye out for symptoms that extend beyond mild vomiting and diarrhea. Your vet can perform a blood test or stool sample on your dog to help assess the issue.

When Are Maggots Considered Dangerous?

Maggots are actually more dangerous in other situations besides being eaten by a dog. If your dog has open cuts or wounds, do not let them out unsupervised in the spring or summer. 

This also applies if your dog has a moist coat with feces or urine on it. Flies can lay eggs on your dog, which hatch into maggots, leading to a condition known as Myiasis. 

This is a very unpleasant and dangerous situation where the maggots can eat the dog’s tissue. The dog can also bring the maggots inside, leading to an infestation. If you find maggots on your dog, take him to the vet immediately for removal.

To prevent the spread of diseases in humans and dogs, keep your yard clean from feces. Maggots often appear on old feces and propagate there, making the area more susceptible to disease and infestation. 

You may have issues with maggots getting into your garden or even on humans who use the yard. Cleaning the yard also prevents your dog from eating old feces and possibly maggots.

Avoiding and Preventing Maggots

Since maggots are undeniably a disgusting issue to deal with, prevention seems like an appealing option. Never having to find them in the first place is preferable to trying to exterminate them.

Inspect Your Yard

Maggots appear on rotting matter. Whether you live in a natural area or in the middle of town, small or even large dead animals can appear in your yard without you realizing it. 

If your dog spends a lot of time in the yard, consider inspecting the area a few times a week to catch any dead birds, squirrels, or other creatures that might have fallen there. 

Taking this time to clean the yard of feces can also avoid the spread of maggots and prevent your dog from finding the feces of a potentially sick wild animal. 

If your dog is allowed to wander a large area or is tied out unsupervised, this kind of inspection is crucial.

Secure The Garbage

If your dog has access to a garage or yard area with garbage bins, make sure the bins are secure, keeping both the smell and the trash inside. 

If possible, prevent your dog from accessing the bins or consider moving them if he has figured out how to get inside. 

Maggots and bacteria can develop inside of bins on the human food waste that is waiting for garbage day. 

Teach Your Dog to Leave it

It is impossible to prevent your dog from finding all kinds of interesting-smelling things to eat, especially on walks. Teaching your dog the “leave it” command can help you stop him from snacking on anything he finds. 

Starting at home with some appealing treats, show your dog an item, then tell him to leave it. When he steps back or looks away, praise and offer a treat. A verbal command to drop a disgusting item can be a lot faster and easier than trying to physically remove it from a dog’s mouth.

Check the Dry Food As Well

Unfortunately, a lot of commercial bags of dry dog food are stored in damp warehouses. This means that it is possible to open a new bag from the store, only to discover maggots inside. 

Since the food is not rotten, there is not a large risk if your dog has already eaten some. However, maggots carry disease and can quickly spread to other foods in your home.

To avoid maggot problems in your dog’s dry food, consider purchasing a sealable plastic container and pouring each new bag of dog food into it. 

Upending the food can make it easier to spot maggots, while the plastic container will prevent the maggots from spreading.

Although they are very unpleasant, maggots do not pose a risk to your dog. The bacteria and decay they swarm to, however, can make both dogs and humans sick. 

A clean, frequently inspected yard and a sealed indoor food bin can drastically lower the likelihood of encountering maggots.

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