Although not a disease or illness fly bites cause considerable distress to horses, ponies and donkeys. The effect the bites have vary from horse to horse, some will be largely unaffected but some will develop a swelling around the area of the bite and some can have an allergic reaction.
Flies bite and pierce the skin, they then feed on the horses blood. They can also carry disease and infection between equines! Flies are attracted to blood, saliva, tears and mucus and so tend to be found around the eyes, nose and mouth, around the sheath or any wound and any other softer more sensitive areas of skin. As mentioned earlier the effect the bites have varies from horse to horse but the effect will also vary depending on the type of fly which delivers the bite.
Flies and mosquitoes are more active when it is hot and are generally attracted to water.
This horse has lots of little bites.
Chesney developed this huge lump after he was bitten last summer!
Horse Flies: The bites are small lumps which have an ulcer in the middle. The bites are painful and itchy.
Black Flies: Their saliva causes an allergic reaction which results in painful lumps which have tiny areas of bleeding.
Midges: These are the nasty little ones that cause sweet itch - I wrote a separate blog about this some time ago!
Bots (Warble Flies): Bite is painful and they leave their eggs on the horse's body.
In a horse with a serious allergic reaction you should look out for:
- Fast and heavy breathing
- Elevated heart rate and temperature
- Standing with head low
- Severe swelling
- If the horse is having a severe allergic reaction call the vet.
- Ice packs or bathing the bite with cool salt water can give some relief. Alternatively, washing the area with a horse shampoo will cool the skin.
- Bot flies can be removed with a special 'knife'
- Physical barriers like rugs and hoods are a good option.
- Use a fly spray on the horse.
- Specific sprays are also available to spray the stables.
- Ensure there are no areas of stagnant water which is where midges breed .
- Horse Flies don't like dark areas so stabling offers some relief from these.
- Black Flies don't like citronella so using a fly repellent containing this should stop this type of fly landing on the horse.
- You should worm your horse against bots in the winter.
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