6 Bug Sprays for Dogs That Safely Keep Pests Away
Bug bites aren't just a human issue—they can affect doggos too!—these are an issue that go beyond itching and discomfort. "So much of the preventive care we educate patients on stems from diseases transmitted by pesky bugs," Mary Altomare, DVM, head veterinarian at Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter in East Hanover, N.J., says.
"For example, ticks can easily spread what we call 'tick-borne disease' such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis, just to name a few. Mosquitoes are most notorious for transmitting heartworm disease. Of course fleas are the most common 'bug' people think of with animal infestation. Aside from being itchy pests, they also transmit tapeworms!"
While there are plenty of bug sprays for dogs on the market (not to mention bug sprays for you and repellants for your backyard), not all are safe for your pets to be around. "We have to always remember that dogs (and really all animals) are much different than humans—seemingly harmless chemicals, herbs, and even food ingredients can be toxic to our furry friends," Altomare says. She also notes that because dogs love to sniff, lick, and roll around, that any product near or on your pet can potentially end up inhaled or ingested.
When using bug spray on your dog, always monitor their reactions and make sure they don't lick the spray off. Patch test a small area to make sure your dog doesn't have a reaction to the product before using it on their entire body.
When you're shopping for bug sprays for dogs (or even for yourself), Altomare recommends running it by your vet—especially because they'll be up on the latest pests becoming an issue in your area and the latest research on what works. However, if you're starting your search, she says to only consider products specifically advertised for canine use like the options listed below.
Wondercide Cedarwood Flea, Tick and Mosquito Spray
Vet's Best Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs
Cedarcide Topical Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs, Cats, and Horses
Nantucket Spider Natural Insect Repellent for Dogs
Natural Care Flea and Tick Spray for Dogs
Vet's Best Natural Mosquito Repellent Spray for Dogs & Cats
Bug Spray Ingredients to Watch Out For
Whether the product is on your skin, near a space your pet goes, or in a product marketed to pets, take a close look at the ingredient list. Altomare shared a short list of what to avoid and why:
"This is an N,N-dialkyamide insecticide used in many bug sprays. It can cause anything from GI upset (vomiting/diarrhea) to inflammation of the airways to neurologic signs like seizures," Altomare says. If you have to use products with this chemical, she says to keep your distance from your pet until it's fully applied and dried.
2. D-Limonene and linalool (Citrus oils)
While citrus-derived oils sound like they would be safe and are often common in "pet-safe" products, they can have a negative effect on pets if not diluted. Do not use 100-percent concentrated essential oil on your dog. "These oils have insecticidal properties but, if ingested, can cause pretty severe liver damage, so steer clear of these ingredient," she says.
Like citrus oils, citronella is so familiar that it may seem like it would be harmless. "Citronella can cause irritation to the skin if applied topically or mouth if ingested," she says. "It can also cause GI discomfort such as vomiting and diarrhea." Again, if you are using a product that contains this oil, make sure it is diluted with other ingredients like water. Never use a full concentration.
This ingredient isn't likely to be found in bug sprays, but it's often used for homemade pest repellents. "Garlic may be harmful for fleas but remember ... it is also toxic to dogs! Ingestion can cause mild to severe anemia," she says.