While campaigning in Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit district during the upcoming assembly elections, I came across a dog lurching drunkenly through the street. One side of its head was covered with blood, it lacked an ear and its tongue lolled out with pain. As I went closer, everybody shouted: 'It's mad, it's mad,' and a few even picked up stones to hit it. It wasn’t mad but was in dire need of medical attention.
It may not sound very pleasing because little white worms had crawled into its head and had eaten their way to its brain. Racked with pain, it looked like it hadn’t eaten or slept for days. I brought it back to the resthouse, sent for the government vet (only the compounder turned up, the actual vet comes to the hospital ‘only for emergencies’). Most of the times, the compounder and two peons handle the enormous volume of traffic. The compounder cleaned up the wound, extracted about a thousand maggots and bound up the head. The dog ate and then slept for 14 hours. The next day it was feeling better. One could see right through to its brain — little yellow bits hanging about — but it survived. Buddhu, as we named him, was sent back to Delhi, at my hospital after and now we are looking for a foster home that could take him in.
A while ago, a dog came for treatment to the clinic. Its lower back had such a deep hole, one could almost put a fist into it. The owner of the dog looked sheepish. She said that her family had gone to attend a wedding out of town and she had left the dog with a neighbour who let it roam freely in the colony. During that time, the dog had frequented the colony garbage dump and once even spent the night there. Flies had laid eggs on the dog’s body and the hole was a result of the maggots eating their way in.
Myiasis or infestation of the animal body with flies and their larvae or maggots is one of the more common problems dogs face. The flies responsible are the green bottle and the blue bottle. How do these flies choose their victims and what do they do?
These flies infest any animal — for the problem is not just with dogs but cats, horses, cows, sheep, goats — has a wound. For instance, in dogs, most of the cases occur just after the two mating seasons. During this season, the males bite each other on the head or tail, while trying to garner the female for themselves. These wounds are immediately vulnerable. Another season is the monsoon when the animal is attacked by other pests and, in scratching itself to remove them, creates wounds. Even if the wound is a small one, if it is left unattended, it bleeds or contains pus and the smell attracts the fly. The fly lays its eggs on the wound and these — often as many as 150 to 200 — hatch in a day. The maggots that emerge, slimy white worm – like creatures, start feeding on the animal, digging their way deep into its body. They take about eight days to eat their way to the pupa stage and then drop off.
The wound remains open. So the secondary flies, like the Flesh Fly and the Common House Fly, move in to lay eggs and repeat the cycle. In two weeks the animal is dead, literally having been eaten alive by flies.
A maggot wound is easily identifiable. A hole of any sort, a characteristic smell. You can actually see the maggots moving in the wound. The most common place that I have come across them is between the toe joints — a place where very few people look — under the tail and on the head. If the dog is uneasy and is constantly getting to his feet, or turning round to pull at his rear, or if he refuses to raise his tail while wagging it, look carefully. The cause is either ticks or maggots.
The treatment is simple. The vet puts chloroform into the wound and takes out each maggot one by one. In the hospital, we use chloroform and turpentine in equal amounts, as this is slightly cheaper and we get hundreds of cases. In small animals, like dogs, the vet cleans the area with antiseptic. He then applies Lorexene, or Maggocide, ointments specifically meant to kill maggots. The wound is made airtight with cotton gauze stuffed into the hole and covered with a bandage. Remember, the wound has to be airtight or the maggot will continue to breathe oxygen and not suffocate to death. The swab of gauze and dressing has to be changed daily and sometimes, in extreme cases like Buddhu’s, twice a day. The vet has to be very meticulous about removing all the maggots each time he opens up the wound. When I sent Buddhu down to Delhi, my doctors found, even after three days of my care, that he still had a few maggots in a small hole under the ear near the chin. These would have continued to eat him up.
As supportive therapy, Zincolak helps the wound heal faster. Antibiotics in the sulphur range, or Amoxycillin which acts as a tissue healer, might be given. Once the wound starts healing, we, in the hospital, use Betadine and Furacin ointment. Recovery is usually very rapid.
Check your pet regularly. See that wounds are dressed in time. In the earlier stages, the eggs look like small white streaks in an open wound and these can be removed using a swab dipped in antiseptic.
I hated being in Pilibhit campaigning for so many days but Buddhu made it seem worthwhile.