The smell hit us before we even knew the dog was in the room. I crinkled my nose at the scent of infection and turned to find that the veterinary assistants had delivered a sedated dog to the treatment table. I knew what was expected of us long before the veterinarian gave any direction. Somewhere hidden among the dog’s long matted fur was a wound. I could tell by the putrid odor that it was necrotic and would require extensive cleaning.
Back at home, we would’ve been upset if a client brought a dog to us in this condition. It would’ve meant that this wound had been left untreated for a while. In Thailand, things are much different. A combination of humidity, heat, and the vast amounts of flies made it nearly impossible for wounds to heal. A wound would become infected and contaminated by maggots within a day or so. A small puncture wound could double or triple in size overnight. That is exactly what had happened with this dog.
On the dog’s rump, hidden by hair, was a hole the size of a quarter. Gentle probing with a gloved hand led to the discovery of the true extent of the injury. It was wider than it was deep, but I could still fit about a third of my finger within it. Visual examination of the wound showed that it was infected by more than 100 maggots.
Grabbing a pair of forceps, I began picking the maggots out one by one. It was a painstaking process, but without removing the larva, the wound would not heal properly. It took about an hour before the maggots were removed completely. The wound was flushed of debris, and medication was applied to assist with healing. A shot of antibiotics was given as an extra measure of protection.
This was the first, but certainly not the last, case of myiasis seen during our time at the shelter. We cared for animals daily with these types of infections. By the end of our stay, we had successfully treated at least a dozen different animals with varying degrees of wounds. I never thought that I would be able to stomach removing maggots, but now I feel quite like a professional. It is amazing how routine these types of things become when you work in this environment and are forced to step outside of your comfort zone.