Can Dogs Eat Flies?

This might look like a tasty snack to your dog…¹

Well over a year ago, I wrote an article about why some dogs were afraid of flies– which was after a conversation I had with my dad about one of his dogs.

That article has led to many people asking me a closely related question about whether dogs can eat flies.

And so I have finally put pen to paper and wrote an article exploring this question.

If you’ve had a dog for a while now, you’ve experienced first-hand how dogs help themselves to the most questionable items – from socks to coins, to even insects. 

Nothing is really safe from the hunting tunnel that is your dog’s mouth.

Considering how common house flies are at any given time of year, it is only fair to wonder and ask: can your dog eat flies?

Well, it obviously can and will, at least try to, eat flies.

But is it safe?

Keeping aside how gross it is, ingesting a house fly is pretty much safe for your dog. It is pretty gross when you think about it, but it is also natural canine behavior – after all, as cute and cuddly as your dog may be with you, at the end of the day, it is still a natural predator.

What you will learn from this article:

  1. What types of flies are the most common in the USA?
  2. What time of year do flies come out?
  3. Why do dogs eat flies?
  4. Are flies dangerous for dogs to eat?
  5. How can you keep flies away from dogs?
  6. What household or garden items attract flies?
  7. Do flies have a sense of smell?
  8. Why are flies attracted to dog poop?
  9. Are flies as dangerous as bees and wasps?
  10. Wrapping up

What types of flies are the most common in the USA?

Flies are a very common annoyance around the world – with over 120,000 species! What’s more – about 18,000 of these species are found in North America! Some of the most common types of flies found in the USA are:

–        House fly

–        Gnat

–        Blow Fly

–        Fruit Fly

–        Phorid Fly

–        Drain Fly

–        Mosquito

Now, there are some that bite and cause immediate harm to human beings, like the infamous mosquito. 

But even the other flies, like houseflies and fruit flies, that may be seemingly harmless in that they don’t bite, are also harmful in their own ways. 

All of these flies breed and eat in unsanitary places such as trash cans, drains, and rotting compost. 

This makes them carriers of disease and a nuisance to the health and hygiene of our personal spaces.

What time of year do flies come out?

While it isn’t uncommon to find at least one fly around your house throughout the year, the hoard of flies usually prefers warm temperatures. Accordingly, they are more of a common nuisance during the summer and spring seasons.

Especially when it comes to house flies and fruit flies, you will find them mostly in the summertime and spring. 

When it comes to houseflies, you will also find them frequenting your backyard and lawn during the monsoon season.

Why do dogs eat flies?

While flies are not their most favored delicacies, dogs still seem to enjoy catching and eating flies. 

What they are actually enjoying, however, is not the taste of the flies, but the mere act of chasing and catching them.

If your dog is bored, or if it has a lot of energy, it may get amused by this incessantly flying nuisance in the house. 

So, your dog may simply be chasing the fly to entertain itself. 

Moreover, as cuddly and sweet as your dog may be with you, at the end of the day, it is a natural predator. And flies are natural, easy prey.

There really is nothing unusual about your dog eating flies – nor is it an indication of anything being wrong.

Are flies dangerous for dogs to eat?

While a common fly may not be as much of a risk to your dog’s health, the habit of chasing and eating whatever flies may become a problematic tendency for your dog.

Eating an occasional fly out of sheer boredom or too much energy will not cause any harm to the health of your dog. However, you need to ensure that this does not become a habit, because your dog may not be able to distinguish between a harmless fly and a stingy bee before it’s too late.

Your dog may not be at a risk of catching a disease by eating an occasional housefly. However, flies can harm your dog’s health in different ways.

Biting flies like mosquitoes, black flies, and biting midges (often called gnats) can cause painful bite wounds and sometimes even allergies. These flies may not be fatal unless they are in large numbers, but they can be a painful annoyance for your dog.

Non-biting flies like house flies are often carriers of microorganisms that can lead to parasitic infections in your dog. They can cause health problems like diarrhea by contaminating your dog’s food. Moreover, if your dog has an open wound, you need to be all the more cautious as many insects and pests, including house flies and maggots, can lay eggs and larvae in the open wound. That will further aggravate the injury and can become septic and even fatal for your dog.

How can you keep flies away from dogs?

While flies may make for fun game food every now and then, too many of them are an annoyance to both you and your dog. The best way to keep flies away from your dog is to maintain cleanliness and hygiene around the house, especially in your dog’s space.

Keep your dogs clean and hygienic.

Keeping your dog clean with a bath and regular grooming will solve more than half of your fly problem. The frequency of bathing your dog will depend largely on whether it spends most of its time outdoors or indoors. But regardless of its lifestyle, regular grooming is necessary to maintain hygiene.

Remember to regularly trim the hair around your dog’s genital region to prevent it from getting dirty or matted.

Keep your pup’s personal space clean.

From its bedding to its kennel, remember to clean up after your dog regularly. Make sure that after your dog has eaten, you clean the area where it eats – after all, dogs aren’t exactly the tidiest of eaters. And if your dog loves to run around in the backyard, make sure that you clean up its soiled fur and paws before you let it run around in the house.

What household or garden items attract flies?

There are a lot of potential things or conditions that act as a hearty invitation to the flies. Some of the more common ones are:

–        Uncovered compost

–        Dog poop lying in the open

–        Dog food kept in the open for too long

–        Spilled food or drinks

–        Uncovered trash cans

–        Open containers of drinks and food

–        Uncleaned drains

–        Meat or chicken pieces lying uncovered in the open

–        Unwashed barbeque grills

The basic thumb rule to understand is that unhygienic conditions and flies go hand-in-hand. So, the best way to avoid having flies in your house or backyard is to maintain proper hygiene around your house and backyard.

Do flies have a sense of smell?

Yes, flies do have a sense of smell – but not in the conventional way as you’d imagine. Flies do not exactly smell through their noses. Instead, they use their antenna to smell.

In fact, it is the smell of ammonia emanating from open, uncovered trash cans, decomposing vegetables, fruits, rotting meat, and other gross things, that attract flies towards them. The very smell that repels us humans, the bad odor of ammonia, is the same smell that attracts flies and other insects toward the matter.

Flies do not have any odor receptors to sniff out ammonia. What they do have are transporter molecules of ammonia, which they then use to identify and locate where the smell of ammonia is coming from – and that is how they swarm towards compost, fruits, and other such things.

Why are flies attracted to dog poop?

Every excreted matter, that is, urine and feces, has a distinct odor due to high amounts of a substance called ammonia. Even dog poop emanates ammonia. This ammonia is exactly what attracts flies toward dog poop.

Flies have ammonia receptors in their antenna. An ammonia receptor is a molecule that lets ammonia in and out of cells. Using ammonia receptors, flies locate where the “odor” of ammonia is coming from. They fly in a straight direction as long as the concentration of ammonia seems to remain the same or increase. If the concentration of ammonia seems to reduce on their path, they fly in a zigzag manner to relocate the source.

Dog poop is a very strong source of ammonia and it sends out a very concentrated odor filled with ammonia molecules. This high concentration of ammonia is detected by the ammonia receptors of the flies and they get attracted to it.

Are flies as dangerous as bees and wasps?

Not really. Flies are not as dangerous as bees and wasps. Bees and wasps can sting your dog if it tries to eat them. Moreover, if your dog is allergic to bees and wasps, accidental ingestion can become all the more fatal. This, however, isn’t the case with flies. Other than being an annoyance, flies don’t cause much harm. However, you should take all measures to keep flies away from your house as flies are carriers of diseases and can thus harm the health of your dog in an indirect way.

Wrapping up

Flies are attracted by anything that emanates a lot of concentrated ammonia. And since there are a lot of potential sources of ammonia in an everyday house, it is difficult to get to a point where you never encounter a single fly. These occasional flies become a source of entertainment food for your dog, as your dog may be energetic or bored and may thus chase the flies and eat them. An occasional munching on flies will not harm the health of your dog. However, make sure that this does not become a habit. Otherwise, your dog may try to chase and eat everything that flies – and your dog may not be able to distinguish a fly from a bee or a wasp. The simplest way to keep flies away from your dog, and from your house as a whole, is to maintain hygiene.

Photo credits

¹ Photo by Juan Pablo Mascanfroni on Unsplash

Sarah Pulsen

Hello, I have been in love with dogs since I was a little girl. I became even more infatuated with them when I was told by my Mum that I couldn't own one. Since I left home there has rarely been a time in my life when I have lived without a dog. My current dog is a Collie Terrier cross, called Ian.