A dog scratching his face on the grass.

Yes, you read that right: flies, the kind that people find endlessly irritating, are also vicious pests. Commonly found near livestock or waterways, black flies (or buffalo gnats) attack their prey’s skin repeatedly. While they don’t spread disease like other parasites, they can trigger a full-blown allergic response in pets. As they are ubiquitous in the warm, humid months, flies bite pets with greater frequency in spring and summer. Luckily, there are ways to combat their terrible effect on animals.

Crazy Itchy!

Flies bite pets and suck their blood like ticks, mosquitos, and fleas. Afflicted areas include the eyes, ears, legs, groin, and belly (or wherever a pet’s fur is thinner). It’s possible for a bite to have minimal impact on a pet’s well-being, but it is equally likely that fly saliva triggers an allergic response. The discomfort of nickel-sized welts can quickly lead to swelling, obsessive scratching, and painful open wounds. Without help, infection could develop.

Stepping In

When flies bite pets, it’s natural to worry as the circular red welts are similar to those caused by human infection of Lyme disease. Dogs rarely show indications like this that they’ve been exposed to Lyme disease. They may exhibit lameness, lethargy, and loss of appetite with Lyme disease, but if you see red, painful-looking circles on their skin, it’s more likely they’ve been bitten by flies, not ticks. 

A Watchful Eye

When flies bite pets, their impact can look a lot worse than it really is. If you ever see evidence of fly bites, keep a close eye on whether or not they improve or worsen. You could try to bathe your pet in oatmeal-infused water or apply topical over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to reduce symptoms. Don’t let them lick the medication off; distract them with some play time or exercise while it soaks into their skin. They may not even realize the effect on their skin, and the appearance of any lesions or welts should disappear over a week. 

Highly sensitive pets may obsessively lick or scratch at the wounds, leaving them open to bacteria that cause infection. Using a mild, hypo-allergenic soap, cleanse the site of infection and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment. Try to keep your pet from licking it. 

If you don’t see any signs of improvement, please call us at (732) 677-2180. It is possible that your pet may benefit from an examination. Prescription medication could be discussed to reduce the severity of infection and minimize associated pain. 

Flies Bite Pets

In addition to flies, there are many other flying and jumping parasites that place pets at risk. We advocate for year-round parasite prevention medication, as many pests can still cause problems even in the winter. If it’s been a while since your pet has been seen or tested for vector-borne illness, please schedule an appointment today. This is the perfect time to ensure that your pet is fully protected from disease and discomfort. 

As always, your friends at True Care Veterinary Hospital are always here for you and your pet. We look forward to seeing you soon!