Q: During the past week, our shepherd's ears have been attacked by flies that bite him and draw blood. The sores gets scabs, and it seems to hurt when we try to clean them. He also scratches or rubs his ears, which makes the sores worse. How can I keep the flies away from him? What should I use to treat his ears and keep them clean?
Sherry Martino, Irvine
A: Because the veins are so superficial, flies tend to bite the tips and margins of a dog's ears, causing the ears to bleed, which then attracts more biting flies. This is, of course, painful and aggravates the dog to the point of scratching his ears raw, making the wounds larger. The condition is commonly called "fly strike" and is mostly a summertime malady.
Keeping the flies away is most important but often very difficult. The yard should be kept clean of droppings or leftover food that attracts the flies. A garden repellent or flying insect spray can be used to reduce the number of flies, but these products should not be used on any animals. You may have to keep your dog indoors during the warmest part of the day to decrease his exposure to flies.
The wounds need to be kept clean and dry by using either warm water and cotton or hydrogen peroxide.