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How to Prevent Black Fly Bites On Dogs

How to Prevent Black Fly Bites On Dogs

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Summer is here which means both man and beast will spend most days outdoors. Nothing beats lounging in the sun (as long as you have sunblock), walking by the beach, swimming, and walking by the beach with your dog. The only dreadful thing about being outdoors is dealing with black flies. These nasty bugs can suck the life out of you and your dog, quite literally. They come out in their numbers to suck blood when the weather is warm and humid. Since your pooch is pretty much helpless when it comes to preventing bugs from mounting her, it is your sole responsibility to help. What can you do to prevent fly bites on dogs?

What Are Black Flies?

Before we get into the prevention strategies of black flies, let’s define what the deadly bugs are. Black flies, aka, ‘turkey gnats’ or ‘buffalo gnats’ are tiny annoying flies that love feeding on people, dogs, cows, cats, and other creatures. As long as you have blood running through your veins, you are a target for them. These bugs only measure 1/8 inches long but they can be a real menace. Their caterpillars need blood to develop and they will do anything to get it. Dogs are easy targets just because they are easily accessible.

The black fly is referred to as a pool sucker meaning it stitches a dog after a few bites and then sucks on the wound to stretch it out. The fly loves sucking in dark and hidden areas no wonder fly bites on dog ears are common. Its saliva also contains a substance that keeps the wound from drying out. As he sucks more blood, the dog forms a defense agent which causes severe itching. The histamine is meant to ward off the bugs from mounting on the dog but it can be quite uncomfortable for the dog. It can also cause an allergic reaction that can lead to eczema.

How Do You Protect Your Dogs From Black Flies?

One or a few stings from a black fly may not necessarily harm your dog. The problem is that an open pus-filled wound serves as an invitation for more of the disgusting bugs. This will undoubtedly aggravate the problem. As the adage goes, “prevention is better than cure”, so don’t wait until it’s too late to act. Here are some prevention methods to consider.

1. Use Topical Ointments

The first line of defense against black fly bites is using insect repellent on the dog. Topical ointments contain substances like Permethrins used to wade off bugs from putting up shop in your pup’s skin. These are applied pretty much to the entire body of a dog, preferably areas that don’t encourage licking. The repellents come in different doses for different dog sizes. Your vet should be able to give you the right dosage of topical ointment for your dog. The good thing with topical repellents is that they are effective for up to one month (sometimes more) at a time as long as the dog doesn’t swim or get a bath.

Steer clear of artificial repellents as these can prove harmful to your pup. Your furry friend will likely lick some of the product as he grooms himself. If the wrong things find their way to his gut, you would have done more damage than good. Essential oils, albeit harmless for dogs can be toxic in high dosages. Tea tree oil, pine oils, and wintergreen oil are some of the non-safe essential oils. Peppermint oil, citrus oil, ylang-ylang and sweet birch oil are safe but only in minimal doses.

2. Use Insect Repellent Sprays

Besides topical ointments, natural insect repellent sprays also work great in preventing your canine from being bitten. The sprays work pretty much the same way as ointments, the only difference is that they are sprays rather than liquid treatments. Most of them utilize Permethrin and other natural ingredients such as geraniol oil, lemongrass, and lemon eucalyptus to repel bugs.

Please note that insect repellent sprays are not 100% effective. The best products in the market can go as high as 80% in their effectiveness and not more than that. As you get searching for a good spray, consider reinforcing your efforts with topical treatments and other prevention strategies recommended here. As usual, stick with products that feature natural ingredients only. Artificial sprays do work but they will only hurt your dog in the end.

Human-grade bug sprays aren’t safe for dogs, so don’t be tempted to use them on your dog. Always get vet-approved, dog safe sprays to repel black flies and other bugs from your dog. Most importantly, before you buy any bug spray, ensure that the product doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients.

3. Move The Pet Inside

Most dogs are bitten by black flies during the heat of the day. This is when the bugs are active.  Prolonged exposure to the sun can dehydrate the insects causing them to thrive. To prevent flies on dog ears, plan on keeping the dog inside the house when the sun is high in the sky. Offer toys that will mentally stimulate him for hours.

4. Clean And Spray The Dog’s Outdoor Kennel

The dog’s outdoor chambers can harbor black flies among other insects. If any insect is lurking around, it needs to go before the weather gets too comfortable for them. There are all kinds of sprays in the market that are effective yet harmless for your doggie. Pick one that best suits his needs. While you are at it, don’t forget to clean the outdoor kennel especially bedding. Get rid of things that attract the bugs such as dog feces and matting.

5. Cover Your Dog With Bandana, Harness Or Dog Vest

A light colored dog vest, harness or bandana will create a barrier to sensitive areas on your dog that black flies get attracted to like the ears. If possible treat or spray the bandana or dog vest with dog-safe bug repellants like permethrin sprays or DEET. We recommend that you give the spray enough time to dry so that the chemicals don’t get to your dog’s skin. If you feel that treating your pup’s harness or bandana is a lot of work for you, opt for store-bought insect repelling bandanas and vests. These are pre-treated with DEET and permethrin through special processes that binds the chemicals to the fibers of the fabrics.

Here are some of the best insect repelling bandanas and vests that get a lot of thumbs-up from vets:

  • Insect Shield Dog Bandana: Featuring a proprietary permethrin formula, the bandana is effective in repelling black flies and many other kinds of biting insects, including those that spread dengue fever, Lyme disease, heartworm etc.
  • Insect Shield Dog T-shirt:  Comes with odorless and effective insect-repellant technology that offers maximum protection against ticks, black flies, mosquitoes, and many other biting insects.
  • Dog Note Gone Safety Vest: Lightweight vest that is carefully treated with permethrin to ward off ticks and other biting insects. It is effective for up to 70 washings.

6. Reduce Black Flies From Your Compound

By keeping the population of black flies low (or non-existent), you will manage the problem substantially. Treat your backyard with a natural bug deterrent spray. If you cannot afford to buy one, make a simple bug spray at home. Mix lemon eucalyptus or citronella with vodka and water and spray away. Additionally, cover any open compost bins to prevent black flies from accessing organic matter that they are often attracted to.

7. Keep Your Pup’s Skin And Coat Clean

Regular bathing and general grooming to get rid of matted fur in your dog can also go a long way in keeping black flies off your dog. It is great for your pup’s general health as well. To get better results, wash areas that attract black flies like ears with a tick shampoo or any other appropriate dog-friendly shampoo and rinse well. In case the ears are bleeding, apply a doggy antibiotic ointment.

8. Stay Away From Trails That Run Along Rivers And Shady, Densely Vegetated Areas When Hiking

Forests and streams are prime breeding spots for black flies and other insects. So, when you are hiking with your canine companion, explore open areas, lakes and ponds instead of streams and thick forested areas. Areas surrounding lakes and ponds are more open and less attractive to black flies. Besides, these areas are windy, making it difficult for these flies to track down their hosts.

9. Plant insect-repelling Herbs

Herbs like basil, mint, bay leaf and rosemary are great as kitchen staples but also for repelling flies. Other herbs that can help you ward off black flies from your dog include tansy, lavender, and sweet woodruff.

10. Consult your Vet

If your dog has been bitten by black flies and manifest symptoms like vomiting, seizures, weaknesses, excessive drooling, wheezing, dizziness, and selling in areas other than the bite marks, consult your vet immediately for treatment advice.  

Parting Thoughts

Black flies can wreak havoc on your skin and sanity. The same also goes for your furry friend. There’s nothing as pitiable as fly bites on dog’s ears or the sight of your dog trying desperately to soothe his irritation and remove a relentless black fly from his skin. Prevention keeps all this from happening so your pup can enjoy some peace and quiet outdoors.