Flies are always worse during the hot days of summer, but the summer of 2014 may be recorded in history as one of the worse in recent years. Many veterinarians believe the increase in flies may be related to the amount of rainfall and overall lower temperatures. This environment produces an ideal breeding condition for flies.
Flies tend to pester most large animals including horses. These insects buzz around the horse often landing near horse’s eyes and face. The flies deposit larvae, bacteria and parasites all around the face, while drinking fluid from the corner of the horse’s eye.
The flies carry conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis results in itching, redness and swelling of the horse’s eyes. This is an inflammatory eye disease, which reacts very similar to pink-eye in humans. The veterinarian will decide on a topical treatment, either antibiotics or steroids.
Habronema larvae are sometimes deposited in open wounds or in the area around the eyes. The larvae create open sores during migration throughout the tissues of the horse. These sores are known as “summer sores.” Horses have an inflammatory reaction to the larvae resulting in itching, redness, swelling and ulceration of the affected area. A veterinarian should be called immediately.
The flies can also transfer equine infectious anemia, a potentially fatal viral disease. Equine infectious anemia is a persistent disease with no known cure or vaccine. Symptoms of the disease include anemia, chronic weight loss, depression, edema, fever and jaundice.
Smart owners utilize special devices designed to protect horses from pesky flies. There are sprays and ointments that may be applied to repel flies. Frequent daily application products are preferable to weekly applications. It is necessary to keep the stable clean to deter flies in addition to sprays and ointments.
Window screens, known as fly masks, are designed of mesh material to allow vision, while providing a barrier to flies. Most designs fasten with a hook and loop fastener under the jaw. Cotton bonnets provide protection for the ears and are equipped with tassels to swish flies from the horse’s face. Leg wraps trimmed in fleece will protect the horse’s legs from biting flies. Scrim sheets are specially designed to protect the body of the horse. Experienced horse owners apply barriers, sprays, ointments and maintain stables during the fly season to maintain healthy horses.
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