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Fly Strike

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Fly strike is defined as irritation of the ear caused by biting flies. Fly strike is a warm weather disease that primarily affects dogs confined to the outdoors in the summer and fall. There are a variety of flies that bite and feed from the blood on the ears. These flies are very irritating and can cause painful, red and bleeding sores along the edges of the ears. In erect eared dogs, the flies typically bite at the tips of the ears. In floppy eared dogs, the front edge of the ear is a popular site for fly bites. In some severe cases, the face can also be involved.

What to Watch For

  • Red crusty bleeding lesions on tips of ears
  • Both ears often affected

    Diagnosis

    Ear wounds can sometimes be difficult to diagnose without various specific tests. Many skin diseases affecting the ears look similar. Fly strike can look just like mange, atopy, vasculitis or systemic lupus erythematosis. In order to differentiate between these diseases, an ear exam, skin scraping, bacterial or fungal culture or a skin biopsy may be required. Your veterinarian may also want a complete blood count, chemistry profile and urinalysis to make sure the rest of the body is healthy.

    Treatment

    After determining that the skin lesions are due to fly strike, initial treatment begins with eradicating the flies or reducing continued exposure. This can be done by confining the pet indoors. If this is not an option, application of topical fly repellant and application of insecticide to the entire body, with more emphasis on the head and ears, can help reduce exposure.

    Treatment of the current skin wounds is done with topical antibiotic and corticosteroid ointments. This will help reduce inflammation and infection and provide a temporary mechanical barrier for the flies.

    For dogs prone to fly strike, there are various fly repellant ointments specifically made to help fight off flies and prevent fly strike.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Home care is primarily directed at reducing exposure to flies and using fly repellants. If the ears become severely inflamed or infected, veterinary examination and treatment is recommended.

    Preventing fly strike can be difficult if the dog must remain outdoors. Using fly repellants and insecticides can help.

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