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  1. dogs skin and coat

How To Tell if Splotchy Dog Skin Rashes Are Caused by Allergies or Black Fly Bites

Posted by Dr. Roth on July 25, 2022

Wellness Care
What to do if?
Dog Skin Rashes from Black Fly Bites Header Photo

Pet parents can worry when they see rashes or red marks on their dog’s skin. Of course, splotches or bumps aren’t always a concern, but sometimes, they can require prompt action or a veterinary visit to address the issue.

These rashes often come from seasonal allergies or bug bites, with black fly bites prevalent in the spring and summer. So how can pet parents tell if allergies or black fly bites caused dog skin rashes, and how should they treat the rash?

What Are Black Flies?

Small and abundant, black flies are one type of biting insect in the Simuliinae family. Also called turkey gnats or buffalo gnats, black flies love to spend time around streams, lakes, rivers, farms, low-lying areas, and wooded areas.  

These insects are widespread in the warmer months, often to the point of extreme nuisance. Black flies feed on the blood of humans and other mammals, and they prefer more delicate areas like the eyes, ears, and stomach.

How To Recognize Black Flies

Black flies are quite small, ranging from 1/4 to 5/8 inches, and most are pure black with a thick abdomen. They move in large swarms but don’t make noticeable buzzing sounds like mosquitoes.

What Do Black Fly Bites Look Like?

Even though they are small, black flies are aggressive feeders and often bite pets several times during feeding. The good news is that black fly bites don’t tend to transmit diseases or cause primary infection.

Black fly bites look like red splotches on the skin. Pet parents will see a flat red mark with a wide circular red splotch around the edges, although some bites have a narrow circular pattern resembling a bull’s eye. This bulls-eye mark can concern pet parents because they worry about Lyme disease from ticks. However, Lyme disease tick bites in humans will show a bulls-eye, but those in pets do not.

So, if pet parents see a ring around a bite, there’s a good chance it is a black fly bite.

What Are Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal or environmental allergies are immune system reactions to different types of particles. For example, mold, grass and tree pollen, fleas, and dust can all trigger immune responses that cause inflammation and create a dog skin rash.

What Do Seasonal Allergies Look Like?

Many dogs with seasonal allergies develop itchy and inflamed skin, runny eyes and nose, and hives and swelling around the ears, mouth, or eyes. Some allergies also lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Dogs who scratch a lot, have runny eyes, and sneeze frequently could be experiencing a seasonal allergy.  

Common Home Treatments

Dogs can feel discomfort from seasonal allergies or black fly bites, leading pet parents to wonder about dog skin care. Pet parents can help their pet get some well-deserved relief with some common dog skin rash treatments.

For allergies, pet parents can bathe their pets with medicated shampoos, clean their bedding often, or add omega-3 supplements to pet food. Pet parents can also clean their pet’s ears frequently and wipe their paws to remove any allergens.  

Black fly and other insect bites can be quite itchy, and they may lead a dog to scratch a lot and create a secondary infection. To soothe a bug bite, pet parents should start by washing the area with soapy water. Ice can help reduce swelling, as can oatmeal or Epsom salt baths. The final step is to apply dog-safe paw balm or anti-itch medicine for dogs to help the skin heal.

Traditional topical flea and tick medicine for dogs also do a good job at preventing bites and the resulting dog skin rash or reaction.

Safety Precautions for Home Treatments

When enjoying time outdoors with their pet, pet parents should use dog-safe bug sprays. Human bug sprays are toxic to pets because of the DEET they contain. Unfortunately, even natural human bug sprays can cause toxicity from the essential oils.

The same applies to human creams and ointments. While they are safe for people, they can poison or be accidentally toxic to pets. The best allergy and bug bite relief products are those made specifically for pets. If unsure, pet parents should always seek veterinarian guidance and suggestions on the safest dog skin medicine products.

Reach Out to the Online Vet Experts

Chatting with the Fuzzy Team can give pet parents the support and guidance they need to help their pet get relief from a dog skin rash. Pet parents can also send their Fuzzy vet some images of the skin rash for professional recommendations. Ready to get started with online vet help? Fuzzy vets are here to help 24/7 with Live Vet Chat.

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