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Keep Flies Off Your Pets

“Researchers suspect flies transmit at least 65 diseases to humans including anthrax, e coli, dysentery, and a lot more deadly illnesses. Pets don’t escape a fly’s wrath either.”

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Call out the SWAT team! Fly season is upon us, and those pesky little insects will be out in force again, as the weather gets warmer. Flies hang out in unsanitary places (piles of garbage, sewers, waste management sites, etc.), feeding on rotting, decaying matter; and researchers suspect they transmit at least 65% of all diseases to humans—including anthrax, e coli, and dysentery. Pets aren’t immune to the wrath of insects, either. Flies nip at whatever animals they can reach, creating infection and tremendous discomfort.

So, what can you do to protect your cat and dog from flies and everything that comes with them? Well, a 24-hour, on-the-job swatting team would be ideal, but who has the time for that? Luckily, there are safe alternate methods that pet parents can take to lessen Fido and Fluffy’s encounters with flies this year.

Please note that not all fly bite treatment products are safe for use on cats.

View Infographic: Flies, More Than Pests >>

Get the Buzz on Flies

In combating flies, it helps to first get a little insight into their habits and how they reproduce. Flies only ingest liquid food, so they eat by spewing saliva on top of solids and sucking it up through a straw-like mouthpart called the proboscis. They also drink a great deal to keep salivating, accessing liquid wherever available—such as rain-filled containers, ponds, and your dog’s water dish! These obnoxious insects also regurgitate and excrete wherever they come to rest. (Those tiny specks that appear in places where flies congregate are actually the insects’ fecal matter!) So if the fly that lands on your dog has just come from a smorgasbord in a nearby garbage can, whatever germs it has acquired will be transmitted to your pooch.

Flies reproduce at an alarming rate. Adult females lay 100-150 eggs upon any decaying matter they can find. After about seven and a half hours (in warm weather), the eggs hatch and release worm-like creatures called maggots, which later change into larvae. A larva will become a pupa and, in time, an adult fly. Adults start mating within a day or two, and the process starts all over again.

Cats, Dogs, and Fly Control 

Flies generally zone in on a cat or dog’s ears, stomach, and groin because these areas offer more skin. Ears are a very popular target, too, especially on Labradors and German Shepherds. To help keep your pet from becoming part of a fly’s daily roster of targets, try these simple precautions.

  • Regularly clean up your dog’s waste. Flies are attracted to dung, so cleaning up doggie piles daily (or even twice daily) may decrease the odds of biting insects being attracted to your yard.
  • More indoor time. Fly bites usually during the daytime. Simply moving a pet indoors may decrease fly encounters. Keep winged insects out of your home by making sure window and door screens are tight, with no access points or holes. Caulk holes around pipes and vents to prevent flies from getting inside.
  • Employ fly strips and set fly traps. Even hanging a few plastic strips across the entrance helps knock off flies that may be after your canine. Flies will struggle more to fly through a barrier, too.
  • Fly sprays. Sprays with permethrin provide an excellent source to keep fleas, ticks, and flying insects away in warm weather. It also proves to be cost-effective with a small ratio used to a water-filled spray bottle. This can be used in areas around pet bedding and exercise areas. It can also be reapplied as needed during the hot months.
  • Pesticides. Some fly infestations may warrant a more aggressive use of chemicals for exterior use, primarily. Pesticides will contain pyrethroid and other like compounds, but these are poisonous so they present dangers to children, pets, and livestock. A licensed pet control operator may be able to advice and assist with treatment. However, insecticides do not offer long-term solutions since sunlight and the elements will break down the chemicals. Be careful not to use pesticides inside a house for the long term due to their toxicity.
Those are helpful, precautionary tips. Now, what can you do to treat animals who already been bitten? What can you do to ease their discomfort?

  • Topical treatment products. Products designed for fly inhibition for dogs exist on the market but are limited. This presents a challenge for pet owners, but regular use of fly repellent applications goes a long way in preventing biting flies from getting a nibble. DO NOT use these products on or near cats, as it can be fatal to our feline friends.
  • Antiseptics. If your dog or cat has suffered some bites and irritation to his ears, use saline or chlorhexidine to clean them and remove oozing crusts. A good antiseptic cream and fly repellent will help discourage flies from bothering these areas, too. Antiseptic creams with pyrethrin will help treat infected ears, but NEVER use pyrethrin on a cat, because it is deadly to them. Consult with your veterinarian for the best treatment for your feline.

Annoying, obnoxious, and downright irritating aptly describes tormenting insects. Set your sights on flies this season with prevention, treatment, and safety. Help pets enjoy the outside without fear of becoming a fly’s next target.

Related Article: Take Steps to Control Flies Around Your Horses