Worm-like creatures in dog feces may be intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms, but fly larvae, also known as maggots, can rapidly colonize fresh fecal piles, often confusing owners, writes veterinarian Jeff Kahler. Dogs acquire tapeworms from fleas that carry tapeworm eggs, so treatment for tapeworms includes medicine to kill the worms and flea treatment to rid the dog of fleas. Fly larvae in feces are easily prevented — just promptly clean up after dogs, notes Dr. Kahler.
By JEFF KAHLER, D.V.M.
Darren was picking up his dog Robo’s waste and noticed white, wormlike creatures crawling in and on several of the stool piles. He finished cleaning up and then called the veterinarian.
Darren said Robo was prescribed medication to treat tapeworms. The dosage required several pills to be taken all at once by Robo. Darren followed the protocol and assumed the creepy little creatures were history. That was wishful thinking; about a week later, they were back on Robo’s stools.
Darren again treated Robo for tapeworms. This time, he also treated Robo for fleas, as tapeworms are often associated with fleas. Darren also began to scrutinize every stool Robo produced. His skepticism was rewarded as the ugly little beasts reappeared within the next week after the second treatment. Well, Darren wants to know what the heck is going on!
Darren needs to harvest stool samples containing the worms and have them examined by Robo’s veterinarian. I believe these wormlike creatures are not worms, but the insect larvae of flies.
If Robo had tapeworms, I would expect the initial treatment to have worked. There would not have been enough time for a new population of tapeworms to develop inside Robo in the week after the first treatment.
Tapeworms are intestinal parasitic worms that occur in several species of animals. The more common type in dogs is carried on the flea. When a dog bites at a flea, it can take in the tapeworm eggs by mouth and swallow them. This starts the development process in the dog’s intestinal tract, which culminates in a population of adult tapeworms. These adults mate and produce small segments that break off the adult worm and are passed in the stool. These appear as tiny, whitish, wormlike creatures that can wiggle and crawl in an undulating fashion. This fits with Darren’s description and his veterinarian’s assumption that Robo had tapeworms. These segments will dry up and appear similar to rice grains over time. The segments will eventually rupture, and the eggs inside stick to fleas and start the whole cycle over again. This is why it is important to treat for fleas when treating for tapeworms.
Of course, we know that Robo does not have tapeworms. In fact, Robo’s stool is not indicating he has any visible parasites.
Robo’s stool is likely colonized by fly larvae, most commonly referred to as maggots. Flies will lay their eggs in fresh dog feces and these will hatch into larvae that then feed on the fecal material. When the weather is warmer, hatching time can be very quick. I know, you’re thinking, “Yuck,” and frankly I am, too. I am not a big fan of maggots, but they are a part of the circle of life and nothing to be concerned about in the disease realm. If Darren were to pick up Robo’s stools more frequently, the fly eggs would not have time to hatch before disposal and would therefore not be seen.
(Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.)
My vet says he can’t do anything for my dog.He pooped out a maggot.I
My dog pearl pooped yesterday which she commonly does everyday but when i tried to clean it up i noticed a moving maggot comingnout of the stool at first i thought it came from a fly that laid its egg on the stool but at the second time the maggots are still no its making me worry about my pets health
Did my dog eat something to get the maggots in its stool.
What do I do to fix her.
Go to your vet so he can tell you what it is and what the treatment should be.
My dog coco has been acting weird for the past week and a half and she’s been very aggressive with me… she has never been like this and today she had a extremely large amount (more then 30) of maggots in her stool… I am planing to see a vet but am unsure if it’s worth the money for a check up. I am worried that my dog is in a lot of pain can someone tell me what I should do?
Go to the vet.
Go to vet now!!!! She is in terrible pain parasites need vet treatments when they are in large number they killing you pet
Just how quickly can a maggot hatch? Today I cleaned up last night’s poop. And within a few minutes both my dogs decided it was too clean and each left their contribution. I did not see which one left which pile, as I had my back turned while watering my flowers.
Both piles were no older than 10 minutes. When I went to clean them up, I found one (pretty sure I know who it’s from), had a tiny, white maggot-like thing crawling on top. It burrowed it’s way back into the poop very quickly. My first thought was actually a maggot, not a tapeworm, as my other dog had chronic tapeworm infestation when she was younger, and the segments were much, much larger. But two of her vets also said they’d never seen a tapeworm segment that looked like the one that came out of my her. So maybe the one I saw today is more normal size?
However, still curious just how fast a maggot can hatch. I can’t believe a fly could lay an egg that hatches within 10 minutes (not that hot out, either), but I’m not a fly lifecycle expert.
Same thing happened to me yesterday—only quicker than five minutes. I just ran in to get a bag. By the time I got back, flies were covering the poop an there was one white worm-like thing that was moving. I have seen tape worm segments, and these were much smaller. Plus, I just dewormed two weeks ago, and I’m not sure there’s been enough time for an infestation to develop.
Just found this! This is has to be what happened.
I think this just happened to us. Thought it was worms but now I’m almost convinced it is maggots. That YouTube video was a big help. Still taking him to the vet in the morn but I don’t think it is worms. Very helpful article.
Yes! Never have I been so happy to identity maggots in my dog poo!
I had a friends dog here and it pooped stools with little pink attachments that looked like tiny, pink candy kisses. They did not move and were gelatinous. IDEXX checked the stool and said there were no parasites. After a few hours the “kisses” dried and looked like little short brown hairs. The dog was wormed for tape and there were no more ‘kisses.” I have photographs. Is there any place to send them.
My dog has been pooping alot more than usual the last few days. Infact she even pooped in the house a couple of times the other night which is extremely unusual for her. Today when she pooped there was a long (4 or 5 inch) white flat substance hanging out of her rear end. By the time I got some tissue to help her it was only about 2 or 3 inches long. Is this an adult tapeworm? Should I take her to the vet? I haven’t seen any fleas on her.
Yes, take her to the vet. Save what you got out of her and take it with you. Don’t mess with this.
Dr. Kahler’s guess is wrong. The subsequent contributers are right. Yet, both can happen. The vet’s mistake was assuming the observer waited a long time before picking up feces. Experienced pet lovers know to check stool very often. These maggots matured inside our dear pets not in droppings left out. The real issue is the source of the bots or fly eggs. When they are aplenty, one should suspect the dog food as well as the usual suspects.
Thank you for that observation! I didn’t think it would be the cat food but the kitten does eat wet food. We’ll be better about getting rid of excess food immediately
I have a dog who has been with me for several years already. I have never seen him pooping with a worm. I just knew because I always pick their poop, We always feed him with rice and a salmon because it’s his favorite and some high protein complementary diet. I came across a post that talks about worms in dog poop. And I think these could help your readers too https://ultimatepetnutrition.com/worms-dog-poop/.I’m keeping your blog for future reference.