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Bug spray with DEET is not safe to use on or around dogs

Using DEET bug spray on or around dogs could cause health problems, including vomiting, lack of coordination and seizures.
Credit: Reddogs - stock.adobe.com

Summer means mosquito season in much of the United States and it’s not just humans that need to worry about the pesky insects. 

Mosquitoes can be dangerous to dogs because they “carry heartworm, a parasitic worm that can infect dogs and live in the heart,” Christine Hayes, DVM told VERIFY’S partner station WLTX. 

While people often reach for bug sprays to help ward off the pests, online searches show people are wondering whether bug spray with DEET, a chemical that repels biting insects, is safe to use on or around dogs.  


Is bug spray with DEET safe to use on or around dogs?



This is false.

No, bug spray with DEET is not safe to use on or around dogs. 

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Humans aren’t the only ones susceptible to insect bites, so many pet owners might look for ways to protect their furry friends, too.

Dogs are at risk of being bitten by mosquitoes that could cause illnesses. But using bug spray with DEET is not a safe way to keep those mosquitoes away. The chemical can cause a variety of health problems for dogs, including vomiting, lack of coordination and seizures.

DEET is highly effective on humans and works to repel insects by making it harder for bugs to smell us. Although bug spray with DEET is safe for people, using it on dogs can be harmful.  

“When dogs are exposed to DEET whether it is through their skin or if they ingest it by licking their fur or licking where you’ve applied the spray, it can cause wobbly walking, shakes, seizure, diarrhea and vomiting,” Dr. Hayes said. 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (ASPCA) says if DEET is sprayed in the eyes, dogs may suffer from a variety of problems, including conjunctivitis and lethargy. If inhaled, dogs may suffer airway inflammation. 

The ASPCA notes that higher concentrations pose more risk to the pet. 

Even if you’re not spraying DEET directly on your dog, it’s important to take precautions so your dog isn’t accidentally exposed.

The ASPCA recommends removing your pets from the area when you apply bug spray with DEET, and waiting until it is completely dry to touch them again.

Erin Trimmier, DVM, advises her patients alternate ways to protect their pets from mosquito-borne illness, like by staying up to date on heartworm medicine and removing standing water from the yard. There are also repellents that are safe and effective for you to use on your dog. The Animal Humane Society recommends lemon juice spray and geranium and soybean oils. Essential oils like lemon eucalyptus are effective, however, some pets may be sensitive so it's important to check with a veterinarian first.

The Animal Humane Society adds that mosquito-repelling plants that are also safe for dogs include basil, catnip, lemon balm, and rosemary. Another popular repellent ingredient, Picaridin, “is not believed to be toxic to dogs,” but is not currently licensed for dog use.

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