Fly Strike is a fairly common summertime problem in canines where biting flies attack either the face or ear tips. They suck blood and inflict painful bites, which get crusty from oozing blood and can often get infected. German Shepherd dogs, collies, and dogs with erect ears are commonly affected (while practicing, I recall seeing this condition a lot in Huskies). Affected dogs are almost always housed outdoors and are usually confined to a pen where they cannot escape the painful fly bites.
Fly dermatitis is usually caused by adult male and female stable flies (Stomoxys calcitrans).
Fly strike on the ears has a very typical appearance. The ear tips appear black and crusty with scabs and bleed easily upon handling. The bites can get infected easily.
The ear tips should be cleaned gently with warm water and an antibacterial soap. I try to remove as much of the dried crustiness as is possible. I will often wrap the ear tips in a damp paper towel which has been moistened with lukewarm water to help soften and loosen the crusts. The ears can be very tender and painful and usually bleed easily with this condition so don’t feel like you need to remove all the crustiness. Be gentle and let the animal tell you when it’s time to stop (and they usually will)!! If it’s a severe case of fly strike I recommend veterinary intervention. Apply an insect or fly repellent to the ears. Flea sprays are also effective, but I prefer something in an ointment form which helps coat the area and forms a barrier to the flies. Infected ear tips require antibiotics. Check with your veterinarian on what products they recommend. I recommend housing the dog indoors during the day through the healing period if possible. Topical creams such as Panalog® work well (it has anti-inflammatory/anti-itching, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties). I prefer the Panolog® cream over Panolog® ointment (there is a difference–the cream forms a better barrier to the flies and isn’t as greasy). Treatment is usually very effective IF flies are controlled.
It is imperative to determine where the source of the flies are coming from and remove that. As long as the flies are still biting, know that you are going to have a problem with healing. Removing dog feces as well as other manure piles (anything that is drawing the flies) is helpful. Also straw piles or grass clippings that become wet can attract flies and should be removed or sprayed with fly repellents every three weeks to help control the fly population. Make sure the repellent you use is safe to use around animals.