Depending on which part of the country you live in, mosquitoes can be a particularly pesky pest not only to you, but to your pets as well. If your dog is scratching more than usual and you’ve noticed the winged insects flying about, it’s a good idea to safeguard her against bites. Mosquitoes can carry disease and infect unprotected dogs with worms.
Products to Avoid
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warns that the use of insect repellent marketed for people containing DEET can lead to neurological problems in dogs and cats. In fact, most insect-repelling products available in stores are dangerous for dogs and cats unless specifically marked otherwise. Veterinarians at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, recommend that pet owners always read a product’s label to determine if the product is approved for use in pets and then carefully follow label instructions for applications. Products containing DEET should always be avoided. Citrus oil extracts and other essential oils should also be avoided due to the extreme sensitivity of some animals. If an insect-repelling product does not state on its label that it is safe for use on cats or dogs, do not purchase it for your pet.
According to the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, there are a few noted products that are approved for safe use in dogs. While pet owners should always contact their veterinarians for advice before purchasing any product, the Compendium of Veterinary Products available on the Network of Animal Health (NOAH), run by the American Veterinary Medical Association, has released a list of 10 products that safely repel mosquitoes away from dogs. Many of the products are also used on horses. However, these products--which include Flysect Super 7 by Equicare, Flea and Tick Mist by Davis and K9 Advantix by Bayer --might contain organophosphate insecticides (OPs) and carbamates. The Humane Society of the United States in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) warns that "there is reason to be concerned about long-term, cumulative exposures as well as combined exposures from the use of other products containing OPs and carbamates." Therefore, pet owners should only use products containing OPs and carbamates with the understanding there is still a risk involved in damaging your dog's health.
Some natural and herbal products exist to repel mosquitoes from dogs, such as Meridian Ectopamine Natural Flea, Tick and Mosquito Topical. A study by the Malaria Research Centre published in the Elsevier Science Journal Bioresource Technology in 1999 found that peppermint oil not only repels mosquitoes but also kills their larvae. Rubbing a small amount of peppermint oil daily at the back of your dog's neck--well out of licking reach--is a safer alternative than using insecticide products.
Where to Purchase
Some of these products are available only through veterinarians. Others are available at specialty hardware or pet supply stores. Call first to make sure a store carries the product before visiting.
According to the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “applying a pyrethrin-based flea spray in accordance with the label directions for that species may be the safest method to try to repel mosquitoes on pets. Reapplication of the spray may be necessary for animals that will spend much time outdoors.” The college’s website warns that topically applied DEET can be absorbed through the skin as well as absorbed through the mouth when pets groom themselves, increasing exposure and the potential for problems.