One of the trade-offs for the long, lazy days of summer is the constant hum (and bite) of mosquitoes. Although the insect bites are mostly annoying to you, they can be truly dangerous for your dog. The bite of an infected mosquito can transmit West Nile virus and heartworm disease, which can be deadly if left untreated.
So it's critical that you keep mosquitoes off your pet, and it's key that you keep your dog on heartworm preventative medication. Although people have plenty of options for mosquito repellents, there aren't so many choices for pets.
Don't use human insect repellent
Although products containing DEET can be very effective keeping mosquitoes off people, DEET can be toxic for dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports side effect ranging from vomiting and skin irritation to breathing problems and seizures, depending on the strength of DEET and how much product was used.
Picardin is another common active ingredient in insect repellent that's made for people. It doesn't typically come with the same warnings for pets as DEET, but vets often still suggest caution. "Though it appears to have a wide margin of safety when used on dogs, there are no products specifically licensed for use on dogs that I am currently aware of," says veterinarian Jason Nicholas of Preventive Vet.
Pet-specific mosquito repellent
There are several products specifically designed to repel mosquitoes from your dog. Most of these products are topical treatments that you apply once a month. Check with your vet to make sure the products are safe given your dog's age, size and health.
Remember, these treatments don't prevent heartworms because they may not be 100 percent effective and it only takes the bite from one mosquito to transmit the disease.
Natural mosquito repellents for dogs
If you'd rather not use chemicals on your dog, you may want to consider natural mosquito repellents. It's a good idea to check with your vet before trying any of these remedies.
Apple cider vinegar — People use apple cider vinegar in hopes of treating all sorts of health ailments. For example, some people dab it on their skin to reduce itchiness and inflammation. According to the Whole Dog Journal, insects like fleas and mosquitoes aren't fans of the smell and taste. Mix up equal parts vinegar to water in a spray bottle and apply to your dog's neck, torso, tail and coat. Avoid the eyes, nose, mouth and any open, sore spots. Let dry.
Geranium and soybean oils — This combo can repel insects, according to fans of essential oils. Mix 1 teaspoon geranium oil with 10 teaspoons soybean oil and store in a glass bottle or spray bottle. Spray or rub on your pet's skin, avoiding eyes, nose, mouth and any open, sore spots.
Lemon eucalyptus oil — Found to be safe for people and pets, this oil comes in many different versions, including an oil that can clip onto your pet's collar so it never directly touches the skin.