In the case of flies biting dogs’ ears and other parts of their anatomy, ‘prevention is better than cure’. There are products available through veterinary suppliers to address the problem but the relief is only short-lived for your poor dog.
In this guide I will explain how to keep flies from biting your dog’s ears, why flies do it, and how to give your dog some relief after being bitten. Here’s a quick overview first though.
How to stop flies biting my dog’s ears? You can get flies to stop biting your dog’s ears by using pet-safe and off the shelf insect repellents listed further down the page. Petroleum jelly on the dog’s ears can also keep flies off and prevent them biting ears as well.
What I would say though, is that petroleum jelly does seem to act as a deterrent on the tips of the ears but does not address other target areas, such as a dog’s underbelly and groin, and even the front legs.
So, based on that, here are some pet-safe products you can use to stop flies biting a dog’s ears, followed by some very interesting details on why this happens.
Best way to stop flies biting dog ears
The best products I’ve research online to keep flies from biting your dog’s ear, belly, or skin include the following:
Why do flies keep biting my dogs ears?
Flies will bite your dog’s ears if they have open wounds on the ear. Once the flies start biting the ears, it creates an on-going issue, as they make the wounds worse, which then attract more flies.
That’s why it’s important to prevent flies biting your dog’s ears completely by using the methods shown above.
What is the role of the fly in the ecosystem?
Flies are one of nature’s decomposers. They clean up all the nasty debris such as rotting vegetation, carrion and manure, turning it into protein for creatures further up the food chain.
A fly can lay up to 500 eggs. The eggs are deposited in dead or dying organic matter, such as haystacks, badly managed compost heaps and piles of manure. Some flies need aquatic conditions for their nurseries, such as marshes, creeks and wetlands.
If you keep your environment, home, yard, of garden clean and free from elements like this, it will help prevent flies coming into contact with your dog and biting them.
And that’s important because within a day, the eggs develop into larvae or maggots which feed off their surroundings, avoiding contact with light.
After 2 to 4 weeks, depending on conditions, the larvae become pupae and need to move to a dry, cool place to complete their development into mature flies.
The larvae and pupae are rich sources of protein for birds, frogs, lizards, other insects and even small mammals.
The problem arises when flies compete for space with humans, their livestock, poultry and domesticated pets. They carry disease and have even been used in warfare! They are also a nuisance in their quest for food.
Feeding and breeding habits of flies
There are dog biting and non-biting flies. Non-biting flies have spongy mouth parts and need to consume all their food in liquid form. Although encounters with them are not physically painful, they do cause irritation.
They can travel up to 10 miles in search of food and are drawn by the smell of carbon dioxide. They will buzz around moist areas of the body, such as the eyes, nose and mouth. On animals, these areas also include the butt and groin area in hot weather.
If a human or animal is dirty, the flies will also be drawn to this. For example, flies will congregate around the tail end of dirty sheep or lay their eggs in the matted fur of a dirty dog.
If your dog has persistent diarrhoea, ensure that it is cleaned regularly. Flies will waste no time in identifying potential food sources for their offspring! By doing so, you can stop flies biting your dog.
Non-biting flies will not cause injury but are not averse to drinking blood if it is available. Biting flies, on the other hand, have a strategy to cause their prey to bleed in order to feed.
They have a crude ‘biting’ style. They lacerate the skin with serrated, scissor-like jaws. They then apply an anticoagulant to the blood in order to maintain the flow. They will feed as long as there is moisture or are chased away.
When the blood stops flowing, a scab forms, which in turn attracts non-biting flies, creating opportunities for secondary infections. The anticoagulant may also cause an allergic reaction in some victims.
If the human or dog is bitten by a large number of biting flies, severe blood loss and anaemia may result. This will cause a general malaise and a loss of overall condition.
Examples of biting flies include horse flies, deer flies, stable flies and black fly.
How to avoid contact with flies in your home and garden
Flies are most active in the late spring and summer months. They thrive in moist, warm conditions where there is a regular source of rotting organic matter.
The best form of prevention is to ensure that flies do not have opportunities to breed. Good sanitation, hygiene and cleanliness practices are essential.
In the garden, you can take the following preventative measures to break the breeding cycle:
- Regularly remove refuse from the premises.
- Do not let moist patches develop that could become nurseries for flies.
- Keep compost bins and hay stacks far away from the house.
- Do not allow vegetation to become too dense. Flies like dark, stable conditions.
- Create air flow in the garden by staggering the heights of shrubs.
- Flies rest at night on the underside of leaves. Perhaps a few nocturnal expeditions to shake up the foliage will make them look for alternative accommodation.
- Regularly clean up dog faeces and remove them from the premises.
- If your dog sleeps outside, regularly shake up and clean its bedding.
- Keep your dogs clean and groomed, especially if they have been ill.
- Grow herbs such as basil, rosemary or lavender, which repel flies, close to your external doors.
- Encourage wild life such as insect eating birds, frogs, lizards and chameleons and let them help you keep the fly population in check.
Inside the house, you can:
- Install fine mesh screen doors that allow air flow but prevent flies and other pests from entering the house.
- Keep the air moving with draughts or a fan. Flies do not enjoy air movement
- Candles also create air movement. Fragrances such as peppermint and citronella, deter flies.
- Regularly wipe down surfaces with antiseptic substances, preferably with lavender or rosemary infusions or fragrances.
- Regularly remove refuse and substances destined for the compost bin, from the house
- Keep your dog inside during the hottest part of the day when the flies are most active.
Avoiding flies away from home
When you are out and about walking your dog, there are a few interesting tricks that boy scouts and others that spend a lot of time outdoors have discovered.
The Australians have developed a wide-brimmed hat with corks dangling from the rim. The English claim that ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’, so avoid walking during the hottest part of the day.
Boy scouts have fathomed that flies congregate around the highest point of an object. A scout will place a branch with a few leaves or a long feather in the band of his hat. The flies will buzz round the object and keep away from his face and ears.
Perhaps this is the reason flies are attracted to biting a dog’s ears – because it is the highest point on their bodies. Smearing petroleum jelly on the dog’s ears could prevent harassment by the flies.
In cool weather, flies are drawn to dark colours, and in warm weather, they prefer light colours. Dress appropriately for the conditions.
For you and your dog, a bandana infused with lemon water, lavender or even apple cider vinegar would mask the smell of carbon dioxide and confuse any flies looking to cause inconvenience. Vanilla is another aroma that is said to deter flies.
Avoid areas where flies would naturally congregate, such as fields full of cattle, creeks in summer and landfills.
Measures of last resort
There are pest control services and commercially available insecticides that target flies in the home, in the garden, and even on your pets. The impact on your environment needs to be weighed up against the extent of the problem.
There are electric devices that literally ‘zap’ flies when they come into contact with them. These come in the form of handheld devices or they can be permanently installed on a wall.
Don’t let your dog suffer with bites to the ears. Flies can be kept away from their faces and ears with repellent products… but then prevention too, by making sure the dog’s area no longer attracts them.