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All About Mosquito Repellent for Dogs: A Guide

As you may know, mosquitoes are a nuisance to humans, but do you know how annoying and harmful they can be to your pet? Not only are mosquito bites painful and irritating, they can transmit several diseases to your dog. All pet owners should learn about these diseases and how to prevent them. One way to fight mosquitoes is to use mosquito repellent specifically formulated for pets.

Why do we need dog mosquito repellent?

Mosquitoes are small flying insects known for their itchy bites. Over 3,700 types are found worldwide, although they thrive in warm, moist environments with dense vegetation and standing water, in which they lay their eggs. Only female mosquitoes bite people and animals, as they require a blood meal to produce eggs. When a mosquito bites, it uses a mouthpart known as a proboscis to pierce the skin and suck up blood. It also injects saliva during this process, which leads to an itchy red bump.

Mosquito bites on dogs may not be as noticeable as on people, thanks to their thick fur coats. Some dogs may be more sensitive than others to mosquito bites. Minor reactions include itching, pain, and swelling at the site. In some cases, an infection or hot spot may develop if your dog is chewing or scratching excessively at the area. Rarely, a dog may have a severe anaphylactic reaction to a mosquito bite, causing swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, and collapse. But the most common danger associated with mosquito bites in dogs is not as obvious and involves the transmission of parasites or viruses to your pet. If you live in an area where mosquitoes are a problem, you must take steps to prevent these diseases.

Mosquito repellents are necessary to keep your pet comfortable, but more importantly, they are part of the armor you need to battle diseases that mosquitoes carry. The most significant danger that mosquitoes pose to dogs is heartworm disease. Less commonly, dogs can also get West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite. Most cases are mild, but it has the potential to cause a severe neurological condition leading to seizures, fever, and mobility issues.

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Heartworm disease in dogs

Heartworm disease is a serious condition that is only spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, and is a concern for dogs everywhere. When a mosquito takes a blood meal, it can deposit heartworm larvae into a dog's bloodstream. Once inside the body, the parasite matures and can cause severe damage to your pet's heart, lungs, and blood vessels, possibly leading to heart failure with fatal consequences.

Symptoms of heartworm disease may be subtle at first, including a mild yet persistent cough, exercise intolerance, fatigue, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As disease progresses, dogs may develop heart failure, difficulty breathing, and a swollen belly. Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states. Heartworm is difficult to treat but easy to prevent. It is critical that all dogs be on a monthly heartworm preventative year-round. Dogs should also be tested for heartworm disease yearly. Those in areas with large mosquito burdens can also benefit from a pet-safe mosquito repellant for extra protection.

Best mosquito repellants for dogs

If you live in an area with many mosquitoes, your dog has a hypersensitivity to mosquito bites, or if they spend lots of time outdoors, they may benefit from a pet-safe mosquito repellant. Of course, you only want to use repellent that is made for specifically for pets, not the type for people. Therefore, the first thing to do when shopping for mosquito repellent is to read the label. Never not use human products on dogs. Also, be aware that certain products that are safe for dogs may be toxic to cats, and should not be used if there are any cats in the household. Let's explore the different types of mosquito repellants available for dogs.

Chemical bug repellant

There are various types and methods of applying chemical mosquito repellent to dogs. These include:

  • Sprays and wipes are easy to use on your dog's fur and skin. These can be very effective, but follow the manufacturer's instructions for safety reasons and to ensure effectiveness, as they need to be reapplied frequently.
  • When you apply spot-on treatments to the pet's skin, along the back or between the shoulder blades, they provide long-lasting protection against mosquitoes, as well as other parasites. These products may contain ingredients such as pyrethroids (especially permethrin), pyriproxyfen, fipronil, or imidacloprid. Some ingredients are absorbed into your pet's bloodstream, while others remain on the skin surface, concentrated in the sebaceous glands and hair follicles, providing continuous protection against mosquitoes for several weeks. Consider K9 Advantix II. Another great product that requires a prescription from your vet is Vectra 3D. Both of these options are toxic to cats.
  • Some collars are available for dogs infused with deltamethrin or geraniol, slowly releasing the ingredients over time, while others tout more natural repellants. Consider Adams Flea and Tick Collar, which also repels mosquitoes for up to six months.
CAUTION
DEET, the number one mosquito repellent for people, should never be used on dogs. Always avoid products containing DEET, as it can cause seizures and death in dogs.

Additional tips for mosquito prevention

In addition to using mosquito repellents specifically formulated for pets, there are several other steps pet owners can take to reduce the risk of mosquito bites and the diseases they transmit.

  • Avoid dawn and dusk activities. Dusk and dawn are when mosquitoes are most active. These are good times to limit outdoor activities, particularly if you're in a location where mosquitoes are common.
  • Don't leave water standing in your yard. Water is where mosquitoes breed, so don't leave stagnant water in clogged gutters, birdbaths, or flower pots.
  • Extra mosquito netting. Use mosquito netting for extra protection in outdoor enclosures or kennels.
  • Schedule regular appointments with your vet to ensure your dog has an adequate supply of preventative products, including heartworm prevention, and is up to date on other routine care.

How to keep mosquitoes away from dogs naturally

If you prefer a more natural solution, fill your yard with plants that repel mosquitoes. The following plants are also safe for pets, although may cause mild gastrointestinal upset if consumed in large amounts.

  • Basil. Planted in the ground or pots, basil plants can help repel mosquitoes.
  • Catnip. You may find the neighborhood cats enjoying your catnip, but you won't attract mosquitoes this way. That seems like a reasonable tradeoff.
  • Lemon balm. Mosquitoes don't like lemon balm, but it may attract bees and butterflies. It may become invasive if not contained.
  • Rosemary. Repels mosquitoes and is safe for dogs to be around unless they eat the plant.
  • Avoid toxic plants like geraniums, citronella, lavender, some marigolds, and garlic — all of which can harm animals if eaten.

While these plants can be an excellent addition to your garden, they are probably not going to keep your yard mosquito-free if they are the only repellent you use. Therefore a yard spray may also be beneficial, such as Wondercide Flea and Tick Yard Spray.

Dragonflies for mosquito control

Dragonflies are very effective at controlling mosquitoes. As adults, they feed on mosquitoes in the air. They also eat a large number of mosquito larvae in the water. To attract dragonflies to your garden, you need to plant a variety of plants, including blackeyed Susan, swamp milkweed, joe-pye weed, meadow sage, water lily, wild celery, arrowhead, fanwort, and cattail.

Trees and shrubs planted around the perimeter of your yard can also help. Those areas are good spots for young dragonflies. Blooming plants attract butterflies, beetles, wasps, moths, and other tiny flying insects that dragonflies like to feed on. Dragonflies are also highly attracted to water plants that grow close to ponds, and like mosquitoes, they need water to breed. Lastly, if you are trying to attract dragon flies, be sure to avoid harmful pesticides.

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 dogs. The following should be avoided as mosquito repellants in dogs:

  • Human insect repellants. Containing DEET and other harmful substances, human insect repellants should never be used on dogs.
  • Toxic plants. As discussed above, plants can be part of a multimodal approach to repelling mosquitoes, however, some, such as garlic, can be toxic to dogs if ingested.
  • Essential oils. Many essential oils can be harmful to dogs, resulting in respiratory disease, gastrointestinal upset, and skin irritation. Despite having some efficacy to control mosquitoes, tea tree oil, pennyroyal oil, wintergreen oil, citrus oil, and peppermint oil, should not be used on or around dogs. It is safest to avoid essential oils altogether.
  • Citronella. Citronella is an oil derived from lemongrass plants that is often used as a mosquito repellant in the form of candles, torches, or sprays due to its strong scent. However, citronella oil and the plant itself are toxic to dogs and cats in all forms.

Mosquitoes aren't just annoying pests; they can also carry deadly illnesses. The best thing you can do to keep your dog safe from heartworm disease is to use a monthly preventative year-round. Pet-safe mosquito repellant can also be helpful for added protection in some cases. If you need more clarification about the safety of a particular product, consult with your veterinarian.

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