There are many steps people take to keep their pets happy and healthy. We choose the right kind of food, make sure they get plenty of exercise and get them to regular checkups at the veterinarian. However, sometimes even that isn't enough. There are parasites so tiny we don’t even know when they might be causing harm to our animals. Even though these little insects can make us nervous to think about, there are many things that can be done to help protect your dogs and cats from mosquitoes.
THE DANGER OF MOSQUITOES
Pets have some natural protection against mosquitoes thanks to fur, but your dog’s or cat’s ears and nose are still exposed. Because dogs spend more time outside, they have a greater exposure time to being bitten by mosquitoes. They experience the same irritating itch humans feel from a bite, but mosquitoes also can carry harmful parasites and diseases. That’s why mosquito control for pets is so important.
Heartworm disease is the greatest concern when it comes to mosquitoes biting your dog or cat. This disease is caused by a tiny worm that lives in animals’ hearts and veins. Heartworm disease spreads when a mosquito bites an infected animal and then bites a second animal. Heartworm offspring can be carried from one creature to the next. Once inside your cat or dog, it can grow to a foot long.
Other Illnesses Carried By Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes carry other diseases, including West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. While these diseases can be deadly, they are rare in cats and dogs. It is unlikely that most pet owners will need to identify symptoms for these diseases, as cases are not found that often. Despite the rarity, it’s important to take whatever steps you can to protect your pet.
WARNING: DON’T USE HUMAN MOSQUITO PRODUCTS ON PETS
While you might have found mosquito repellents that work well for yourself, it’s important not to use DEET and other products on your dogs or cats. These items could be toxic and very harmful to your pets. DEET alternatives also are not safe for pets and are often not effective because they are oil-based and don’t really kill the mosquitoes. DEET was first used on U.S. soldiers serving in areas highly infested with insects.
By 1957, the product was on shelves and available to anyone in the general population. If your dog or cat comes in contact with DEET, either orally or on their skin, they could show severe symptoms, such as vomiting, seizures, skin irritation and a staggered gait. It is very important that they be taken to a veterinarian immediately if they are exposed to DEET. Even other products that are DEET alternatives can contain oils that can cause irritation on animals. Not all mosquito repellents are safe for pets, so be sure to avoid anything that isn’t specifically made for animals.
TRADITIONAL & OVER-THE-COUNTER MOSQUITO CONTROL METHODS
Mosquito Control For Dogs
Monthly treatments to prevent flies, fleas and mosquitoes from attacking your pets are available online or at most pet stores. K9 Advantix II is a common treatment used as a mosquito repellent for dogs. Not only does it kill mosquitoes that might try to bite your dog, but it also keeps them from getting close with its full-spectrum protection. The clear product is applied directly to your dog’s skin in various spots and it provides a full 30 days of protection. It’s very important that cats avoid any contact with K9 Advantix II, because even though it’s a helpful mosquito repellent for dogs, it’s toxic to felines.
If you have both dogs and cats in your house, keep them separate until the product dries completely on your dog. This can take about 15 minutes or so. Also, be sure the cats don’t try to groom the dog in the areas the mosquito repellent has been applied. You’ll need to contact a veterinarian immediately if the cat ingests any of the product.
If your dog likes to swim, keep it out of water for about 48 hours. The mosquito treatment is toxic to aquatic life, too.
Mosquito Control For Cats
Cats are a bit harder to treat with traditional mosquito repellents because they are very sensitive to certain chemicals. Also, because cats tend to keep themselves very clean through self-grooming, they can easily ingest just about anything that is applied to the skin. Bayer makes Advantage II, a flea repellent for cats, but it doesn’t protect against mosquitoes, which can carry disease and cause skin irritation. A variety of sprays and wipes are available over the counter and are safe for protecting your cats from mosquitoes.
Over-the-counter mosquito repellent for pets can be expensive, although necessary. If you’d rather avoid the chemicals and cost of these traditional methods, there are several natural alternatives that have been found to work.
1. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil - This natural mosquito repellent has been found to be safe for humans and pets. The New England Journal of Medicine found in 2002 that the herbal repellent of Repel Lemon Eucalyptus provided about two hours of protection from mosquito bites, compared to less than 1 ½ hours from DEET products. In addition, the U.S Department of Agriculture found that lemon eucalyptus oil was the most effective repellent, even when compared to other natural and synthetic products. It was even approved for use when it comes to protection from mosquitoes that carry the West Nile Virus. While Repel Lemon Eucalyptus is specifically for human use, there are many versions available for dogs. One product can be used by putting the oil in a special holder on your dog’s collar. That way, the oil never directly touches your pet. There also is a version available for felines to help protect your cat from mosquitoes.
2. Geranium and Soybean Oil - Another popular natural mosquito repellent for pets is the oil from geraniums and soybeans. Products such as PetFresh Bite Blocker can protect your pet for up to four hours. This mosquito spray for dogs can be applied directly to the animal’s coat and rubbed in. Pet owners can apply the mosquito repellent about once a week or after a bath for continued protection. This form of natural mosquito repellent was rated as the No. 2 most effective natural product in a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most sprays are about $10 a bottle, a real cost savings when compared to traditional over-the-counter methods.
3. Citronella - Citronella candles are popular ways to protect you and your family when enjoying the outdoors. This natural oil deters mosquitoes from feasting on you and your furry friends. If you’re spending some time outside with your family, it’s safe to light one of these candles to provide protection to you and your pets. Just make sure your pet isn’t able to knock the candle over or get into the wax, as it can be dangerous. If the smell is off-putting to you, there are other alternatives to protecting your pets from mosquitoes.
4. Lemon or Other Citrus Juice - Did you know that mosquitoes are easily repelled by the scent of lemon or other citrus juices? If you’re looking for one of the most natural ways to keep mosquitoes away from your pets, try slicing a lemon. There are two main ways you can use this tart fruit to protect your dog or cat. Slice a lemon, lime or grapefruit and then rub the wedge directly on your pet’s fur. Be sure to avoid the eyes and any open cuts as the acid in the fruit can sting and be painful. Citrus is nontoxic to dogs, so there’s no harm in your pet licking its fur or other areas after the citrus juice has been applied. You also could make a spray from the lemon juice that can easily be applied to your dog’s body. Bring six lemons, or any other mix of citrus, and a quart of water to a boil. Let it steep for at least an hour. Once it cools, pour it into a spray bottle. Be sure to strain it so the pulp doesn't clog your spray bottle. Remember to keep your dog’s eyes safe by not spraying around the face. Instead, spray its body with the mixture. To apply it around your dog’s face, spray your hand or a cloth and then gently rub it onto your dog’s nose or other areas, but be sure to avoid the eyes. The spray can be reapplied every two to three hours. Some studies also suggest that adding lemon to your dog’s diet can help with mosquito protection. Adding lemon juice to its water or lemon zest to its food is an easy way to get the fruit into your animal’s diet. The amount you should give your dog can range from ¼ of a teaspoon to a dog that is very small to 3 teaspoons for a very large dog. It might be a good idea to start with a small dosage and work your way up. That way, your dog can get used to the taste a little bit at a time.
Keep The Environment Clean
In addition to products that can help keep your pet safe from mosquitoes, there is a lot you can do to make sure mosquitoes aren't going to make your backyard their new home.