Safe Mosquito and Fly Repellent for Dogs

owner applying topical flea and tick ointment to a dog
Some topical flea and tick treatments also help to repel mosquitoes.

Tatomm / Getty Images

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 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 Haemobartonella, and ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, Babesia, Haemobartonella, 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 some dogs are not 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, 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 skin rashes, lethargy, low blood pressure, and anorexia in dogs.
  • Marigold plants - Marigold plants can cause skin irritation and if eaten, gastrointestinal upset like vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Garlic plants - Garlic 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.
  • 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 even more severe symptoms depending on the type of oil and concentration that is used. Harmful essential oils for dogs include 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.
illustration of safe and toxic insect repellents for dogs and cats
The Spruce / Ashley Nicole DeLeon

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.
  • Lavender plants - These plants smell great to people but mosquitoes hate them.
  • 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 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, though.
  • Vectra 3D - Like K9 Advantix, this is a monthly, topical application that will repel mosquitoes.
  • 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 but otherwise it is considered non-toxic. It destroys flea eggs so they cannot hatch so while it isn't technically a repellent, it can help prevent your dog from getting fleas.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.