Mosquitoes and other insects are not only bothersome but they can transmit deadly diseases to your dog through a simple bite. Thankfully there are various products that can help to repel these bugs and therefore decrease the likelihood of disease transmission. Not all products that work in the environment or on people are safe for a dog, though, so it's important to both protect your dog from mosquitoes and other insects and also make sure you aren't hurting your dog in the process.
What Diseases Do Mosquitoes and Other Insect Transmit to Dogs?
Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are all insects that can easily transmit diseases to dogs with a simple bite. Mosquitoes can transmit deadly heartworm disease, fleas can transmit tapeworms and Bartonella, and ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, Babesia, Bartonella, Tularemia, and Anaplasmosis. Ticks can also cause paralysis in dogs due to a toxin they secrete and Hepatozoonosis if the dog eats it. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit specific diseases so not every dog is at risk for all of these diseases if only one or two kinds of ticks are found where they live. Regardless, all dogs are at risk for diseases transmitted by insects, even if they live strictly indoors. Insects can easily enter a home so no dog is completely without risk.
Dangerous Insect Repellents for Dogs
While people may use various insect repellent sprays, lotions, and even plants to repel mosquitoes and other bugs, many can be dangerous to a dog so they are best avoided.
- DEET - Products containing DEET should always be avoided as these can cause seizures and death in dogs. Many mosquito repellents designed for people will have this ingredient in it.
- Citronella plants and products - The scent of citronella is irritating to dogs and if large quantities of the plant are consumed, or citronella essential oil is used, it can also be toxic. Many products designed to be safe around pets contain citronella but dogs do not like it.
- Geranium plants - If eaten, geranium plants can cause vomiting, skin rashes, lethargy, and anorexia in dogs.
- Marigold plants - Most Marigold plants (Calendula officinalis) are considered non-toxic to dogs, however if consumed in large quantities, can cause mild gastrointestinal upset like vomiting and diarrhea.
- Garlic plants - Garlic ingestion can cause severe issues like anemia and collapse and may take several days to occur after ingestion. Occasionally people will feed very small amounts of garlic to their dog to try and repel fleas but the risk is not worth it and it is not effective against fleas.
- Essential oils - Many essential oils can be harmful to dogs, especially if they are not properly diluted and applied with a carrier oil that is also safe for dogs. They are best avoided as they can cause skin irritation, GI upset if licked off, and severe lung damage if inhaled in spray form or from a diffuser. Even more severe symptoms can occur depending on the type of oil and concentration that is used. Harmful essential oils for dogs include camphor, cinnamon, citrus (d-limonene), pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), wintergreen, ylang ylang, anise, clove, thyme, juniper, yarrow, and garlic and should always be avoided.
Safe Insect Repellents for Dogs
Many products and plants are typically safe and readily available to use as insect repellents and management options for dogs.
- Basil plants - These can be planted in the ground or in pots to help repel mosquitoes
- Catnip plants - You may attract some cats but mosquitoes don't like catnip plants.
- Lemon balm plants - Lemon balm plants may attract bees and butterflies but mosquitoes want nothing to do with them.
- Rosemary plants - These plants are typically safe unless a very large amount is consumed. If you aren't worried about your dog eating the plant though, they can be helpful for repelling mosquitoes.
- Peppermint plants - In large amounts, peppermint can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If the plant is out of reach from your dog though, a peppermint plant (not the essential oil) can help repel mosquitoes.
- K9 Advantix - This is a monthly, topical ointment that contains ingredients that repel ticks and mosquitoes. It should never be used on cats or even on dogs who live with cats, though, because it is highly toxic to cats, even from contact with a dog who just had some applied to it.
- Vectra 3D - Like K9 Advantix, this is a monthly, topical application that will repel mosquitoes, however it is also toxic to cats.
- Diatomaceous earth - As long as you aren't using the chemically treated products meant for industrial use or pool cleaning, diatomaceous earth is safe once the dust settles on the ground. Avoid breathing it in while applying it to the yard or in the house, but otherwise it is considered non-toxic. It destroys flea eggs in the environment so they cannot hatch and also dries out and kills adult insects. So while it isn't technically a repellent, it can help prevent your dog from getting fleas.