Stable flies are more than just a nuisance, they inflict painful bites around your dog's ears and nose. The bites cause "fly strike," a condition most common in dogs that live on or near livestock farms or those that live in outdoor kennels. Fly repellents and good kennel hygiene will reduce fly populations and increase your dog's comfort and safety.
Stable flies feed on the blood of dogs, livestock and humans. Able to bite through thin layers of clothing, these small flies lay their eggs in decaying organic matter, piles of fermenting grass clippings, soiled animal bedding, garbage and feces.
Signs and Symptoms
Dogs that are kept outdoors are most vulnerable to severe fly bites or "fly strike." Stable flies will attack the dog's ears, nose and legs, searching for areas with little or no fur cover for easy feeding. Ear tips usually suffer the most damage because dogs are not able to easily defend this sensitive body part.
Chemical Fly Repellents
To prevent fly bites, apply topical repellents that contain DEET or Pyrethrin/Permethrin. These products are available in lotion, spray and ointment formulas and are designed for human and pet use.
To protect the ear tips, PetEducation.com recommends a homemade mixture of DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) mixed with petroleum jelly. DEET is available in a variety of over-the-counter insect repellents. It is, according to the EPA, a safe and effective insect repellent when used according to directions. DEET does not kill insects.
Pyrethrin, a chemical derived from the chrysanthemum plant, and its synthetic equivalent, Permethrin, kill and repel insects, making them popular flea-control products. It, too, can be mixed with petroleum jelly to protect the ear tips or sprayed on the body for overall insect repellency and extermination.
Natural Fly Repellents
If you would like to avoid the use of chemical insect controls, there are several botanical oils and homemade solutions that can be employed against stable flies. Bergen Community College recommends the use of natural fly controls and repellents. They suggest planting sweet basil and tansy. PlantGreen.com suggests several other repellent herbs including rosemary, sweet woodruff, mint, lavender and bay.
An inhospitable environment is the best way to reduce fly populations. To that end, keep all kennel and living spaces clean and dry, removing feces, soiled bedding and uneaten food daily. Cover garbage cans tightly and keep surrounding vegetation trimmed.
Premises sprays containing Pyrethrin or Permethrin will kill adult flies. Traps, lures and flypaper can be used to further reduce adult fly populations.
Fly Bite Care
Left untreated, fly bites can become infected. Female flies may lay eggs in and around the damaged tissue and maggots may develop. At this point, veterinary treatment will be necessary.
At the first sign of fly bites, gently clean the affected areas with a mild soap and water. Apply a topical, over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment to prevent infection and take the appropriate steps to minimize and repel biting flies.