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Are Mosquito Repellents Bad for Dogs?

Last Updated: 14.07.24


If your dog suffers during the summer because of mosquitoes, you might consider getting a natural mosquito repellent to keep the pesky insects away. Using chemical repellents such as DEET can be harmful to your pet, while picaridin can be employed effectively with care. You could also try to make your own natural insect repellent right at home.


Some repellents are dangerous

There are many types of insect repellents, from the ones you can make on your own, to the highly-tested chemical ones. Most of those that are intended for children or sensible people contain natural ingredients to protect them. But there are others that rely on harsh chemicals and toxins to be effective.

Unfortunately, for some people, the latter ones are the only repellents that work. Amongst the chemicals used for this kind of repellents, DEET is one of the most used, and it has been known to be highly effective against mosquitoes since 1944. This chemical is well-used in countries where mosquitoes pose real issues and can become a health hazard.

But people who prefer a natural approach often avoid it, as DEET-free products pose a lesser health risk in case of inhalation or intoxication of any kind. The compound is a strong toxin and many experts suggest that it should only be sprayed on clothes. However, many users don’t know this and they often put it on their skin, or worse, on their pet.

Due to the associated risks, DEET products shouldn’t be used on pets or in their presence. There are many adverse effects of this chemical and your dog will suffer in case it gets intoxicated.



Risks for dogs

During summers, your pets can suffer from biting attacks from bugs, and that can be an annoying thing, especially when your dog shows up with severely large bite marks that keep irritating it. So most people will try to use some kind of repellent to keep away the bugs and mosquitoes.

Some assume that a product that works on them is safe for dogs too, and those people apply products containing DEET or other toxic elements to their dogs. However, keep in mind that you should never use a product that is not stated as non-toxic to animals. Spraying your dog with a repellent containing DEET or harsh chemicals will result in the pet ingesting it and getting sick.

Furthermore, even if you spray it in their presence, or on your clothes, you still risk them getting in contact with the dangerous substances. So if you know you can’t keep your dog away from the things you have sprayed, better use something that doesn’t contain harsh ingredients.



When coming in contact with repellents containing DEET, dogs will suffer, and if the pet is sprayed in the eyes, it will have to endure problems like scleritis, conjunctivitis, or ulcerations. Your dog might even show signs of lethargy or depression in that case. If you know that your dog’s eyes came into contact with repellents, you need to wash the eyes with a sterile saline product.

However, that is often difficult to do, especially for 15 minutes, as the procedure requires, so it’s best if you get your dog to the vet, have it sedated and treated there. In case of inhalation, your dog’s airways can become swollen, and the pet may suffer from dyspnea. Again, it’s a good choice to bring your pet to the vet if that happens and the vet will provide it with the oxygen, steroids, and bronchodilators the pet needs.

In many DEET intoxication cases, the dog will suffer from some kind of gastrointestinal problems. This will cause disorientation, tremors, seizures, or ataxia. What’s worse is that the central nervous system can be affected, in cases of large exposures.

In case of external exposures, meaning that the repellent only touched your dog’s skin and fur, you need to give your dog a thorough bath in liquid dishwashing detergent. That will help remove the repellent, but it’s only useful if it’s applied quickly after the dog came in contact with the substance.

Sometimes your dog can ingest the toxic substance and if that happens you can give it activated charcoal to help it overcome the situation if the intoxication was a small one. In more difficult cases, however, the pet needs gastrointestinal protectants, and those should be given by the veterinarian.


Keeping mosquitoes away

Now that we know DEET isn’t good for dogs, let’s see what you can do to keep the insects away from your dog. On the bright side, another ingredient often used in repellents, picaridin, is a safe choice for your pet.

Researchers have tested this substance on beagles, and after one year of use, the dogs showed no adverse effect at any dosage. However, because this is still a chemical compound, it shouldn’t be used excessively at it can still be dangerous in large quantities. Furthermore, you should never let your dog ingest it.

Fortunately, there are other ways to prevent your dog from getting bitten by mosquitoes, without spraying it. One small thing that you could do is to use a collar that has been treated with picaridin and that can prove efficient in keeping the bugs away.

Furthermore, you can take some other measures to keep the bugs away. Mosquitoes live near water, and you should strive to eliminate all kinds of stagnating water around your house. This will prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs and multiplying. Don’t forget to throw your dog’s water away at night.

You should also keep your dog safe at peak-biting hours, and that means early in the morning and at dusk. Mosquitoes love getting out and biting at those times. If you avoid walking your dog at these hours, the pet is less likely to be bitten.

If your dogs stay inside most of the times and you still find that they have bite marks, it means the mosquitoes find a way to get into the house. That’s why you need to place mosquito nets in your windows, and you should also consider any other hole where the insects might be getting through.



Natural repellents

Fortunately, there are many natural alternatives that you can use. These can be good for your health too, so you might consider ignoring the DEET products next time you see them. Although some repellents based on natural ingredients haven’t proven themselves useful yet, there are some ingredients that can work really well against mosquitoes.

One of the most used such ingredients is lemon eucalyptus oil. This natural ingredient can prove more effective than low-concentration DEET products, for a period of 120 minutes. It’s not great in terms of time, as it will only keep your dog protected for 2 hours, but it’s wonderful in case you need to protect your dog for a small time in an area with a lot of mosquitoes.

Furthermore, this ingredient has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, meaning that it’s safe to be used by humans and pets. While some don’t like its odor, this ingredient is probably the most efficient alternative to highly-concentrated DEET products.

Geranium oil and soybean oil can be used to keep mosquitoes away as well. Although not as potent as the lemon eucalyptus oil, these 2 can still be effective. Products containing these ingredients can keep someone safe against mosquitoes for around 95 minutes.

Repellents that have this substance are better than DEET products with a concentration of 7% and they’re also safer, especially for kids. What’s better is that you can make a repellent of your own, by mixing these 2 oils together. You will have to combine 1 teaspoon of geranium oil with 10 teaspoons of soybean oil, and you will have your own repellent that you can keep in a bottle and apply it whenever you need.




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