We say it with little affection: Minnesota’s unofficial state bird is the mosquito. And it’s back in season. These bloodsuckers can easily ruin a beautiful night outside on a patio (or catio) or a nice walk with your pooch.
Mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance — they can spread harmful diseases like West Nile virus and Heartworm to your pets. That’s why your first line of defense should always be monthly Heartworm preventatives and a broad spectrum flea and tick medication. Together, these two preventatives are incredibly effective at protecting your pup or outdoor cat.
Most flea and tick preventives have an ingredient to repel mosquitoes — before they bite. And Heartworm preventatives work by killing Heartworm larvae before they can become adult worms if your pet does become infected.
The bite of just one infected mosquito is enough to spread disease, so Animal Humane Society recommends giving your dog or outdoor cat preventatives year-round, to protect them against infection.
Monthly preventatives are a great baseline, but let’s face it folks, in Minnesota, you may need extra protection. You can keep mosquitoes at bay in ways that are safe for both you and your pets. The following tips are a good place to start.
1. Never use DEET products on your pet
Never use a product on your pet that isn’t intended for them. According to the ASPCA, both dogs and cats are sensitive to DEET. Using it could cause neurological problems, such as tremors, seizures, or even death.
There are pet-safe mosquito repellent products at your local pet supply store. You should also check with your veterinarian for recommendation on such products.
2. Be careful with essential oils
Essential oils serve as natural remedies for all sorts of ailments, including bug repellents. Lemon eucalyptus spray is gaining popularity as an alternative mosquito repellent for humans and has shown to have longer-lasting effects than DEET-based sprays.
Before you use any essential oil on your furry best friend, though, check with your veterinarian that it’s safe. Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils, causing upset stomachs, central nervous system depression, and even liver damage — tea tree oil is especially toxic.
There are ways to use essentials oils without putting them directly on your pet, such as putting a dab of oil on their collar or using a collar attachment that doubles as an oil diffuser.
3. Citronella is toxic to pets
Citronella candles and oils are a popular mosquito repellent, but the citronella plant is toxic to pets. Use caution when using citronella products around your pet, and make sure they don’t have access to any citronella plants in your garden.
4. Citrus juice and certain oils can be applied to your pet’s coat
While essential oils may not be safe to place directly on your pet’s coat, there are a few other options that may work. Check with your vet to make sure they’re a good option for your pet’s unique needs!
Mosquitoes hate citrus. Cut up some of the tart fruits and rub on your pet’s coat, avoiding eyes and any open cuts. Or make an easy lemon juice spray, combining juice from six fresh squeezed lemons and a quart of water. Bring it to a boil, let it steep for an hour, and then put it in a spray bottle once it cools.
Geranium and soybean oils are natural remedies that can be applied directly to your pet’s coat. While geranium plants are toxic to dogs and cats, the oil is safe.
5. Harness the power of plants
Want a natural remedy that doesn’t involve oils and sprays? Fill your yard with mosquito-repelling plants! These common, mosquito-repelling plants are also safe for pets:
- Lemon balm
Avoid toxic plants like geraniums, citronella, peppermint, lavender, some varieties of marigolds, and garlic — all of which can be harmful to animals if eaten. Learn more about toxic plants.
6. Keep standing water clean or covered
Standing water is a mosquito’s home base. Water containers, ponds, or puddles in your yard are an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Keep them covered or cleaned as best you can.
There’s no doubt about it — we make a tasty treat for mosquitoes. But with these helpful tips, you and your pet can avoid these nuisance insects and stay healthy and itch-free all summer long!