Can I Use Bug Spray On My Dog?

Read this before spraying your dog down 🦟

dog with bug spray

Do you have to swat mosquitoes off of your pup when you’re outside?

Maybe you always notice a bunch of mosquito bites pop up on her after a long nighttime stroll.

If mosquitoes, flies or gnats love hanging around your dog, you probably want to know: Can you put bug spray on dogs?

And while it might seem like a no-brainer to just grab the OFF and spray her down, you should think again before doing that — because most human bug sprays are definitely not dog-friendly.

We reached out to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, and Amber LaRock, veterinary technician at Airport Freeway Animal Emergency Hospital in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to find out whether or not you can use bug spray on your pup, and other ways you can protect her from mosquitoes.

Can you put bug spray on dogs — or is it dangerous to do so?

Human bug spray can be very dangerous for our canine companions as these bug sprays often contain an ingredient called DEET. “This substance is considered toxic to dogs, whether it is applied to their skin or they accidentally consume it,” LaRock told The Dodo. “Because of this, it’s important to exercise caution when using DEET around your furry friend.”

What happens if you use bug spray on a dog?

According to LaRock, if you spray human bug spray on your dog’s skin, she may develop some serious skin irritation. “You may notice your pup incessantly scratching and biting at the area it was applied, even seeming frantic in some cases,” LaRock said.

Not only can human bug spray irritate her skin, but it can also cause neurological symptoms. “In some cases, your dog may show no signs of adverse effects,” Dr. Burke told The Dodo. “Other dogs may have symptoms of tremors, disorientation or seizures.”

What if your dog licked bug spray off of you?

In general, pets who lick bug spray from your skin will ingest small enough quantities that there won’t be any serious symptoms. “However, they may begin to drool soon after getting the bug spray on their tongue, and they may even vomit if the taste makes them nauseous,” LaRock said. “As long as these symptoms resolve quickly, there should be no trouble.”

“If your pet licks a large area of your skin or is [a smaller dog], I recommend rinsing their mouth with water and monitoring for signs of an upset stomach for two to four hours,” Dr. Burke said. “If evidence of an upset stomach is noted and is severe, I recommend contacting your veterinarian.”

You would need to apply a large amount of bug spray for your dog to actually get a toxic dose, so one lick usually won’t cause serious harm. Just be sure to discourage this behavior going forward!

Signs of DEET poisoning in dogs

While it’s unlikely that your dog will get serious DEET poisoning from bug spray, it’s still a good idea to know what to look out for.

Some of the most common symptoms of DEET poisoning in dogs include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin irritation
  • Disorientation
  • Trembling
  • Seizures

“Seizures typically occur in 1.5 percent of dogs exposed to high concentrations of DEET,” Dr. Burke said.

How to treat DEET poisoning in dogs

“If your dog is reacting to DEET due to application on the skin, I recommend contacting your veterinarian,” Dr. Burke said. “Along with speaking to your veterinarian, your dog should be bathed with a mild dishwashing detergent to remove the product.”

If your dog is reacting to DEET from ingesting it, you should get to a veterinary clinic immediately. “Fast action is critical in these situations, so we always suggest getting them veterinary care ASAP,” LaRock said.If you’re heading to the vet, LaRock also suggested bringing the bottle of bug spray (or any relevant labels) with you, as this will help your vet determine the best course of treatment for your pup.

How to keep mosquitoes off dogs

Since you shouldn’t use human bug spray to protect your dog from mosquitoes, there are other ways to make sure your dog isn’t a mosquito's next meal.

Some of the best ways to protect your dog from mosquitoes include:

  • Reducing any standing water on your property
  • Lighting citronella candles around your yard
  • Avoiding being outside at dawn or dusk
  • Using a vet-approved, pet-safe insect repellent

Mosquito repellents for dogs

While you should always get permission from your veterinarian before using a mosquito repellent on your dog, Dr. Burch and LaRock gave their favorite options for dog-safe mosquito repellents.

Vet's Best Mosquito Repellent for Dogs and Cats

This repellent uses a unique blend of certified natural oils, including lemongrass oil and geraniol (from citronella plants). Reapply every two hours for optimal protection.

K9 Advantix II Flea and Tick Prevention for Large Dogs

Although it's labeled as a flea and tick preventative, this monthly medication also repels and kills mosquitoes, as well. With just one dose, your dog will be protected for a month.

Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus

While not a dog-specific product, Dr. Burke recommends this bug guard because it doesn’t contain any DEET — and works wonders for protecting dogs from mosquitoes and other bugs.

So while you shouldn’t use most human bug sprays on your pup, that doesn’t mean your dog has to suffer from yucky mosquito bites. Just follow these tips and you’ll be able to have the best time outside whenever you want!

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