Shoo, Fly! Products to Battle Biting Flies

If you’ve ever spent time around horses, chances are you’ve spent plenty of time around pesky flies. Unfortunately, one of the by products of your favorite steed is also a big attractant to the flies that torment you, your horse, or even your favorite barn dog.

Stable flies (sometimes referred to as biting house flies) may look like a common house fly, but the biggest difference is what makes them such a problem. At the front of their head, you’ll see a needle-sharp, bayonet-like protuberance: that is their mouthpiece and, like a bayonet, it easily pierces tender skin when it bites, looking for blood.

Stable flies are most active during the day. And while you may encounter them in the stable, they are not restricted to farms or rural areas. They’ll deposit their eggs in any suitable moist, organic material, whether it’s straw, manure, soggy hay, wet piles of grass clippings, compost materials or piles of uncollected dog feces. (We’ve talked before at Pet Health Central about the importance of cleaning up after your dog; now, there’s another reason!)

These flies are notorious for tormenting standing animals; they can actually pester cattle to the point where they lose weight or don’t produce as much milk. Livestock and horses targeted by the flies will stomp, head toss, or twitch their skin. In some cases, animals will stay together in a tight group in an attempt to protect their flanks.

Dogs and cats are also a favorite target; the flies will land on the tender tips of the ears or the bridge of the nose and seek a blood meal. Severely affected pets will often appear to have black tar along the edges of their ears; this is clotted blood from repeated bites by stable flies.

Stable flies are also known to transmit the pathogens responsible for anaplasmosis, equine infectious anemia and anthrax to animals, and bites can also become secondarily infected by bacteria.

On top of all the nasty things caused by fly bites, there is the obvious: fly bites hurt, and they will go after people, given the opportunity.

For horses, dogs and cats, there is help available. SENTRY, known for flea and tick protection like Fiproguard Plus, makes two products that can help with attacks by stable flies and other biting insects: SENTRY Fly Repellent Spray for dogs and horses, and SENTRY Fly Repellent Cream for dogs, cats and horses. Both are easy to use and can help your favorite four-legged friend fend off attacks by flies. Be sure to read and follow label directions carefully before application.

In addition, as with other pest infestations, it is often helpful to make sure your environment does not encourage fly proliferation. Eliminate breeding sites by turning compost piles and spreading wet bedding so that it dries; clean up manure and other feces. The use of pesticides in the environment may be warranted; check with your local extension educator to get more information or advice on control of stable flies in the environment.

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