How to Keep Mosquitoes Away from Your Dog or Cat

Here in Ontario, we are all familiar with the unofficial provincial bird – the mosquito. If you head out at the wrong time of year without the right preparations, they might just carry you away!

Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration… but if you don’t figure out how to keep mosquitoes away from your dog or cat, they can put a damper on an otherwise fun vacation. Unfortunately, many of the products that we have come to rely on to keep the bugs away aren’t safe for our furry travel companions.

So how do you keep the bugs from ruining your pet-friendly camping trip?

Let’s look at a few options…

smiling dog wearing a blue bandana | How to Keep Mosquitoes Away from Your Dog or Cat
  • Save
Lucifer sporting his “bug bandana”

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click and buy, we will make a commission (at no cost to you). See my full disclosure policy for more details.

Are Mosquitoes Harmful to Dogs or Cats?

There’s no denying that mosquitoes can be a major annoyance, but can they cause serious harm to your pet? The answer is yes.

Mosquitoes are known carriers of the parasitic worm Dirofilaria immitis (the worm responsible for heartworm). These words are transmitted with the mosquito bite, travelling to the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels, where they mature into adults and begin to multiply.

Heartworm disease can lead to heart failure, severe lung disease, other organ damage, and death.

Can I Spray OFF on My Dog or Cat?

Many of the most common human insect repellents, including OFF products, contain DEET. This ingredient is highly effective at keeping mosquitoes and biting flies at bay, but it is also extremely toxic to dogs and cats.

Exposure to DEET can cause vomiting, shortness of breath, staggering, lethargy, tremors, seizures, or death.

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a product with DEET, contact your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal hospital as soon as possible. While there are options to address the exposure and increase their chance of survival, time is of the essence.  

How to Keep Mosquitoes Away from Your Dog or Cat

Be Mindful of High-Traffic Bug Areas/Times

There are going to be some trails and campsites that naturally attract more bugs than others. This could be a campsite near a swamp or a trail that often pools standing water during the rainy season.

Check online reviews about the area you are considering when making your outdoor travel plans, and be strategic about the locations you select.

If a location you are interested in is known to be a heavy bug zone, you may want to plan your trip for early spring before most biting insects emerge, or late fall when their activity has slowed once again.

Keep in mind that these time frames are estimates and change depending on the weather and temperature from year to year. For example, if it is a warmer-than-normal spring, there is a good chance that mosquitoes and other pests will come out earlier.

Use a Screened Shelter

If you are camping, you can create a bug-free space at the campsite for you and your pets to hang out by using a screened shelter.

These are often marketed as “dining shelters” as they are used to be a bug-free space to eat. But you don’t have to save them solely for during mealtimes.

With their screened sides, they offer a full view of the campsite, making them a great place to relax at any point during the day. We often set up inside ours while reading a book, playing cards, or working from the campsite (which I sometimes do).

You can choose from a wide variety of sizes, styles, and brand names. We use (and love) the Kuma Outdoor Gear Bear Den Gazebo.

dog lying inside a dining shelter | How to Keep Mosquitoes Away from Your Dog or Cat
  • Save
Lucifer lounging inside the Bear Den Gazebo

ACV Homemade Mosquito Repellent for Dogs and Cats

When travelling, we use a simple apple cider vinegar mosquito repellent for dogs and cats. We bring a mixture of 50/50 apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle.

Be cautious with spraying it, and be sure to cover your dog’s face to avoid getting it in the eyes.

As cats generally dislike being sprayed by any liquid (many cat owners use spray bottles as an aversive), we pour the mixture onto our hands and then rub it onto our cats’ fur.

You can search and explore many other versions of homemade bug spray for dogs and cats on the internet. However, we love how simple this is when planning our outings or if we need to “make” more while camping.  

Citrus Bug Spray for Pets

Did you know that mosquitoes hate citrus?

While many citrus essential oils are unsafe for your pet due to their high concentration, you can still leverage citrus to help keep the bugs away while outdoors.

First, you can simply cut a citrus fruit, like a lemon, and rub the fruit on your pet’s fur. Avoid any sensitive areas like open cuts, irritated skin, or, obviously, their eyes.

Another option is to mix the juice from 6 freshly squeezed lemons into a quarter of water to create a lemon bug spray. It works best if you boil the mixture, let it sit for an hour to steep and mix thoroughly, and then allow it to cool down before use.

Essential Oil Sprays

Many essential oils have been found to be beneficial in repelling insects. However, a word of caution, many of these same oils can be toxic and even life-threatening to your pet. Even those that are deemed to be safe can be dangerous in the wrong concentration.

We support using natural solutions, such as a natural mosquito repellent for dogs and cats. But that natural solution also needs to be safe.

For this reason, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian before using any essential oils on or near your pet. If your veterinarian is adamantly against discussing homemade or natural solutions, consider seeking a new veterinarian that better connects with your lifestyle.

Purchase a Cat or Dog Bug Repellent

There are many commercial insect repellents for dogs on the market (fewer options for cats).

Recommendations for bug spray are often requested in our “Camping & Hiking with Dogs Ontario” Facebook group. Here are some of the most recommended options by the community:

However, I should note that I personally do not use any of these products.

Outfit Your Pet with a Dragonfly Wingman

This is a solution that I laughed off for quite a while but recently decided to explore. The Dragonfly Wingman Clip-On Natural & Organic Concept Deer and Horse Fly Repellent is a small dragonfly-shaped figurine on a clip.

When attached to your pet’s collar or harness, the dragonfly floats above them slightly, making it seem like they are flying around your pet. But how does this keep the flies away?

 Dragonflies are the primary predator of both horse and deer flies. When they see the predator “hanging out” around your pet, they instinctively steer clear.

The best part is that they can be reused repeatedly, plus there are no chemicals or potentially harmful ingredients to consider. This makes it one of the safest yet still effective options out there when it comes to those pesky biting flies.

Veterinarian Supplied Flea and Tick Repellents

Some flea and tick repellents go beyond protecting your pets against fleas and ticks. In fact, you may be taking steps to protect them without knowing it!

Our dogs are all protected with K9 Advantix II, which protects against fleas, ticks, lice, mosquitoes, and stable flies.

Contact your veterinarian to discuss your options.

dog hiking on a boardwalk | How to Keep Mosquitoes Away from Your Dog or Cat
  • Save
A screenshot from our video of Lucifer hiking the buggy trail at Mississagi PP

Final Thoughts: Keeping Your Pets Safe from Bugs While Adventuring

If you’re heading out on the trails or planning a trip to your favourite campsite, protection from the bugs should not be overlooked. This includes both for you AND your pets!

Not only are they a nuisance, but biting insects can carry diseases and transmit the worm responsible for Heartworm Disease.

Avoid using human bug sprays on or around your pets, as they often contain toxic ingredients like DEET. Instead, you should consider purchasing a pet-friendly bug spray or using an alternative approach that will be safe for your dog or cat.

Consider spraying preventatives on a bandana or your pet’s harness instead of directly onto them to avoid direct exposure and to make it easier to remove later without worrying about your pet licking it off their fur.

From planning your trip during a less “buggy” time of year to leveraging bug protection solutions like screened shelters and DIY bug sprays, there are many options available for your next getaway.

How do you keep mosquitoes away from your dog or cat? We’d love to hear about your chosen solution!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *