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Mosquito Repellent for Dogs: The Complete Guide for Pet Owners

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec, DVM

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Why Mosquito Repellent for Dogs is Important

Why Mosquito Repellent for Dogs is Important

A mosquito repellent for dogs is important because these pests are more than a nuisance. Namely, mosquito bites are painful, and mosquitoes infected with certain diseases serve as vectors meaning they transmit the pathogens to dogs. 

Vector-borne diseases (Anaplasmosis, Lyme Disease, Eastern Equine Encephalitis) are severe and harder to treat than to prevent. Therefore, using insect repellents is critical for protecting your dog. 

Depending on where you live, and which vectors (mosquitoes, ticks, fleas) are active in your area, your dog might be needing seasonal or year-round protection. Which approach is best is something you need to discuss with your trusted veterinarian. 

Mosquitos Transmit Diseases to Dogs

Different mosquito species transmit different diseases. Some of them are widespread, while others are endemic to certain parts of the world. Here is a short review of some of the more common mosquito-borne diseases in dogs.

West Nile Virus. Mosquitoes become infected with West Nile Virus when feeding on the blood of infected birds. Then, they transfer the virus through their bites to dogs (as well as humans and other animals). West Nile Virus in dogs causes encephalitis (brain inflammation) and manifests with behavioral changes, posture changes, and convulsions. Compared to humans and other animals, dogs seem to be more resistant to West Nile Virus. 

Heartworms. Canine Heartworm is a widespread concern. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, they transmit parasitic larvae known as Dirofilariasis. Over the course of six months, these larvae begin to mature into adults. Then, the mature worms migrate and impact the heart and its major blood vessels. 

Tularemia. Also known as Rabbit’s fever, Tularemia is a bacterial infection caused by Francisella tularensis. The bacteria can be transmitted via several mechanisms including mosquito bites. In most cases, the infection is self-limiting and manifests with lethargy, poor appetite, and mild fever episodes. On rarer occasions, it can cause draining abscesses, eye inflammations, and swollen lymph nodes. 

Do Dogs Need Pet-Friendly Mosquito Repellent?

Yes, to protect your dog from mosquitoes and other bugs, you need products made explicitly for canines. You must never use cat products on dogs and the other way around. Also, it is vital not to use human products as they often contain chemicals that are toxic or otherwise harmful to dogs. In fact, if you have applied a repellent on yourself, you should not pet your dog or let it lick your hands. 

Mosquito Repellent Ingredients to Avoid

Just because some products offer efficient mosquito protection does not mean they are safe for dogs. Sadly, many over-the-counter mosquito repellents for dogs contain chemicals that are harmful or even toxic to pets. Here is a short review of the ingredients you need to avoid. 

DEET. DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is an active ingredient in bug repellents for humans (causes no harm in concentrations lower than 30%). However, DEET is highly toxic to pets (according to the ASPCA to both dogs and cats). DEET triggers digestive tract upset (diarrhea, vomiting), inflammation of the airways, and neurological issues (tremors, seizures). Therefore, the use of DEET-containing products in dogs is a no-go. 

Garlic. Many homemade pest repellents feature a common and readily available ingredient, garlic. While it is true that garlic is harmful to external parasites, keep in mind that it is also toxic to dogs. Garlic contains thiosulfate, which causes damage to the red blood cells. The damaged red blood cells are then removed from circulation resulting in anemia. 

Citronella. Citronella is one of the most popular natural mosquito repellents. However, the citronella plant is toxic to dogs. Never use citronella candles, oils, and other products around your dog. Also, if you have citronella plants in the garden, make sure your dog cannot access them. When applied topically, citronella irritates the skin and, if ingested, wreaks havoc on the dog’s digestive system. 

Geranium. Based on the ASPCA‘s report, the geranium plant is not extremely toxic. However, its essential oil is because it contains geranium and linalool. Both geranium and linalool are alcohols and cause contact dermatitis and after ingestion inflammation of the mouth and GI tract (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lack of appetite) and depression.  

Is There a Safe Mosquito Repellent for Dogs?

Yes, there are safe mosquito repellents for dogs. Whether a mosquito repellent for dogs is safe or not depends on the ingredients. This does not necessarily mean that natural products are always good. For example, some natural oils are harmful, while certain traditional chemicals are safe for dogs. 

In general, natural repellents are more rarely associated with side effects, but on the downside, they require more frequent application as they have shorter-lasting residual efficacy. However, neither natural-based nor chemical-based products offer 100% protection. They minimize the risk of bug bites, but they do not prevent it completely. 

Safe Mosquito Repellent Products for Dogs

Safe Mosquito Repellent Products for Dogs

A high-quality mosquito repellent for dogs is not hard to find. In fact, the modern pet market offers some great bug repellents. They are formulated specifically for dogs and are pretty efficient. Plus, in addition to keeping mosquitoes off, they also protect against ticks and fleas. Here are some popular mosquito repellent for dogs options. 

K9 Advantix Flea and Tick Treatment for Dogs. K9 Advantix II is a vet-recommended and broad -spectrum product with three active ingredients, including imidacloprid, pyriproxyfen, and permethrin. It protects from several ectoparasites such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chewing lice, and biting flies. The spot-on treatment starts working within 12 hours and offers protection that lasts up to four weeks. On the downside, it is not safe to use on cats and can be costly.

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Biospot Active Care Flea & Tick Shampoo for Dogs. BioSpot can kill and repel mosquitos, fleas (all life stages), ticks, mites, biting lice and flies. The shampoo is made with three ingredients, including S-methoprene, pyrethrins, and piperonyl butoxide. It is safe for dogs over 12 weeks of age and, according to the manufacturer, protects for 28 days. We should note that there are some user complaints that the repelling effects do not last as long as claimed. 

Vectra Flea & Tick Spot Treatment for Dogs. Vectra 3D is an easy-to-use, fast-acting, and long-lasting mosquito repellent. It can also kill and repel fleas, ticks, mites, biting lice and flies. The quick-drying and non-greasy spot-on solution is made with dinitefuran, pyriproxyfen, and permethrin. Plus, it is waterproof and protects against bugs for one month. As with most topical products, it is not safe for cats and can be pricey. 

Vet’s Best Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs. The Vet’s Best Topical  Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs (8 oz) kills fleas, flea eggs, and ticks and repels mosquitoes. Featuring natural ingredients such as peppermint oil, eugenol (clove plants), and plant-derived sodium lauryl sulfate, the product is safe for puppies over 12 weeks of age and can be used on furniture and outdoor spaces. However, it needs a frequent application to ensure lasting repelling effects. 

Natural Mosquito Repellents for Dogs

Natural Mosquito Repellents for Dogs

If you do not like mainstream, traditional chemicals, there are some natural ways of keeping mosquitoes and others pests at bay. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best natural insect repellents for dogs. 

DIY Mosquito Repellent for Dogs. If you are willing to invest some time and effort, you can make your own mosquito repellent using simple ingredients that are safe for pets while being efficient against bugs. Here is a recipe for a simple DIY mosquito repellent for dogs:

  • 10-12 ounces of witch hazel 
  • A few drops of lemon eucalyptus or lemongrass oil   
  • A few spoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 5 to 7 ounces of distilled water.

After mixing the ingredients, shake them well, and for easy application, put the solution in a spray bottle. The size of the spraying bottle should correspond to your dog’s size (misting a large dog with a small bottle can be challenging). 

Essential Oils. Certain essential oils can be used as natural pest repellents for dogs. However, there are two things you must consider. First, not all natural oils are safe, and second, essential oils are too strong for dogs and need to be diluted. 

The group of dog-friendly and bug-repelling essential oils include verbena oil, neem oil, fennel oil, cedar oil, thyme oil, cinnamon oil, rosemary oil, peppermint oil, lemongrass oil, eucalyptus lemon oil, and lavender oil. 

To reduce the oil’s potency, make sure you dilute it in a carrier like, for example, grapeseed oil. One drop of essential oil must be diluted with one milliliter of carrier oil. If using multiple oils, make sure you add 1 ml of carrier per each drop of essential oil. 

Basil Plant. The basil plant is one of the most popular natural mosquito repellents. The basil plant contains volatile compounds which interfere with the mosquitoes’ sensors rendering their ability to find and recognize meals.

Lemon Balm Plant. The lemon balm plant repels both mosquitoes and gnats. This is because the lemon balm plant contains citronellal. Citronellal has a strong lemony scent which these bugs find highly repulsive. 

Catnip. The characteristic odor of the catnip comes from its essential oil called nepetalactone. Interestingly, nepetalactone is around ten times stronger at repelling mosquitoes than DEET (the most widely used chemical in insect repellents).

Finally, there is no such thing as best repelling traditional chemicals or best natural mosquito repellent for dogs. Neither the mainstream nor the natural insect repellents are 100% foolproof, and every product has its pros and cons. To ensure you are giving your dog the best mosquito bites protection, consult with your veterinarian as the information in this article is educational. 

Sources

https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/dont-deet-dog

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/geranium

https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/garlic/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040716081706.htm

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15532688/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12542193/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010828075659.htm