A dog scratching at a fly bite.

Black flies (sometimes called buffalo gnats) can ruin a backyard barbecue and make our pets extremely uncomfortable. These little buggers bite, and they like to zero in on a pet’s tender areas, like their ears, noses, tummies, and rumps. Working dogs on farms are the most commonly affected, but black flies can attack any pet at any time. Although black flies don’t transmit diseases like ticks and mosquitoes, their bites can lead to secondary infections—or worse for pets allergic to them.  

Our team at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital wants you to know how to spot these nasty bites on your dog (or cat), how to treat them, and how to prevent them.

What Do Fly Bites Look Like?

Fly bites often resemble bullseyes, with a flat red dot in the middle and a red outline. But sometimes the entire bite can look like a red, crusty splotch.

Flea bites, on the other hand, usually look like tiny, red, raised bumps; and tick bites are red bumps that resemble mosquito bites.

Are Fly Bites Dangerous?

Fly bites are usually harmless, but the itching can make your pets very uncomfortable. All the scratching and licking can make the itchy skin even more irritated, so if the bites don’t seem to be getting better in a few days, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for an examination

Allergic reactions are rare, but can be serious. If you notice hives or swelling in areas where the pet wasn’t bitten, or if you see swelling in the face or throat, seek emergency care immediately. 

Treating Fly Bites on Your Pet’s Skin

To help soothe your pet’s itchy, irritated skin, carefully clean the area with warm water and a gentle soap that is safe for pets. You can use an ointment like paw balm to encourage healing. 

You can also treat your pet to an oatmeal bath, or use an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment like Neosporin. But don’t reach for the calamine lotion; it contains zinc oxide, which is toxic for pets and will give your cat or dog tummy trouble. 

Avoiding Fly Bites

Enjoying the great outdoors also means finding ways to cope with Mother Nature’s tiniest creatures. Try these tips for keeping the bite count on your pets to a bare minimum:

  • Do not use human-grade insect repellents on pets. Use only pet-safe, veterinarian-approved bug sprays
  • Keep your pet’s coat groomed and clean.
  • Immediately pick up pet waste in the yard and dispose of uneaten food.
  • Keep lids on trash cans and keep compost bins covered.
  • Leave your pet indoors during the midday heat when flies are more active.
  • Avoid walking your dog in thick forests—especially ones with streams.
  • Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccines and parasite prevention.

Please contact us at (210) 681-1391 if you have questions or concerns about fly bites on your pets or to schedule an appointment. We’re here to help!