You're out for a stroll with your dog and notice that they’re repeatedly flicking their ears and trying to scratch their belly. You wonder whether the flies buzzing around are the cause of your dog’s distress.
So, how do you keep flies off your dog? Can flies bite dogs? Is there a safe bug repellent for dogs?
Let’s discuss everything you need to know about how to keep flies off dogs.
Why Are There Flies Around Your Dog?
There are several reasons why flies might be attracted to your pup—some of which you can prevent.
Be sure to wash off any fecal or urinary contaminants that may linger on your dog’s coat after they’ve relieved themselves. House flies are attracted to soiled coats, including dogs whose private parts have not been groomed properly, and those with greasy coats or skin infections.
Other reasons for flies and fly bites on dogs are less preventable. Some bugs—like deer flies, moose flies, and mosquitoes—are attracted to the heat and carbon dioxide released by warm-blooded mammals, including people and dogs.
Though there are ways to stop these pests (primarily using pesticide repellents), you can’t entirely avoid these critters.
However, not all insects bite. Plenty of non-harmful insects exist and eliminating them completely is neither necessary nor helpful to your pet.
Do Flies Bite Dogs?
The flies aren’t just an annoyance; their bite is painful. And if the bites cause your dog to scratch, they can become infected and will require treatment.
Some diseases are caused or transmitted by these biting flies and mosquitoes. One of the most common is heartworm, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Fortunately, heartworm is preventable if you use a medication recommended by your veterinarian.
Fly bites can be very irritating to dogs, and often target the thinly haired parts of their coat.
For example, stable flies are attracted to ears with pointed tips, such as those found on German Shepherds. Black flies will attack the hairless bellies of dogs, especially during the spring. Mosquitoes will bite any exposed skin.
Since all these bites can be painful and itchy, dogs will often scratch themselves raw to feel better, allowing infections to develop.
What Kinds of Insects Are Attracted to Dogs?
Several insects are attracted to dogs, although not all may live in your area.
Some of the most common include:
Biting midges—also known as “no-see-ums”
Black flies—very common insects sometimes found in large swarms
Eye gnats—these bugs don’t bite, but cluster around an animal’s eyes and can be very annoying.
Horse flies and deer flies—large and aggressive; capable of delivering a very painful bite
Mosquitos—small but common, and a frequent cause of disease transmission.
Sand flies—these bugs are becoming more common in the United States, but are primarily nocturnal.
Stable flies—these flies prefer feeding on horses, but they will also attack dogs if given the chance.
Tsetse flies—most found in Africa, and capable of transmitting serious diseases.
Bot flies—frequently found near rabbit warrens; larvae can tunnel under the skin of dogs, resulting in a painful boil-like wound.
How To Prevent Flies Around Your Pup
It isn’t possible to eliminate these biting insects from your yard, but you can be proactive in keeping their numbers down. You can also minimize the discomfort they cause your pooch.
There are specific recommendations you can follow, and some general guidelines that can help reduce the number of bites your dog has to endure.
Some tips to keep flies off your dog:
Walk your dog in a sunny area at midday. Many insects prefer to be out at dawn and dusk or hide in a shaded area. Sun and noontime heat help discourage them.
Avoid grassy areas. Insects will lurk in the grass and be able to bite the tummy of your dog as they pass—especially if your pup is low to the ground.
Many insects, such as mosquitoes, like wet and marshy areas. Avoid walking your dog in these spots during the buggy season.
Consult your veterinarian about human products that may be safe to apply to the less hairy portions of your pooch, such as the belly and ears.
Look for slightly windy days for long walks. Some weak fliers like mosquitos will have a harder time pursuing your dog if the wind has kicked up.
Baths help soothe inflammation for a dog that has been bitten by insects. An oatmeal bath can go a long way to make a dog more comfortable. A bath will also keep your dog’s skin and coat clean, which decreases the chance that flies will come looking for a place to feed and lay their eggs.
Baths are not particularly effective in repelling flies, and even those that are meant to prevent fly bites usually wear off very quickly. In fact, some baths, and dips (especially those containing vinegar) may attract unwanted insects.
Use baths to keep your pet clean and to soothe them if they’ve been bitten.
Cleaning Up After Your Dog
Dog poop and trash are both major attractions for flies. Although not all flies bite, they are still something you don’t want landing on and irritating your dog. A clean yard will help keep the fly population lower.
Many supposedly “natural” or homemade dog-safe repellents advertised online are neither natural nor safe. Be cautious in choosing herbal products for your pets.
However, oils such as neem, peppermint, lemongrass, and cedarwood are typically considered safe. Always check with your veterinarian before putting any products on your pooch, regardless of what the label says.
Flypaper is a great way to trap flies, but there’s always the risk that your pup will get tangled in the fly strip as well, creating a very sticky mess.
Consider making your own fly bait containing ingredients such as vinegar and yeast, which are nontoxic. They can be placed in the yard somewhere away from the area where your dog typically roams.
There are products that are safe to use to deter flies, especially those that bite. Some are combined with routine preventative products, such as for heartworm. Others are meant to be applied separately.
Remember to consult with your veterinarian before you apply any product to your pup.
When To Call Your Vet
If you notice a few bug bites on your dog that may be a problem, treat them at home with a gentle, soothing bath. You can also help prevent your pup from licking or scratching by using a Comfy Cone™ or Earthbath® No Chew spray.
If your dog has been exposed to flies and their bites are red or oozing, or your pup isn’t acting like themselves, call your vet immediately. They will likely want to treat your dog for any infection or inflammation that has developed.
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