Can I Put Bug Spray on My Dog or Cat?

Christine Brovelli-O'Brien

Warm, wet weather is a mosquito's best friend. If your pet is going on a walk in the woods or frolicking in the yard on days when insects are swarming, you may wonder, "Can I put bug spray on my dog?"

The short answer is no. Do not use human bug sprays on pets. Cats and dogs are susceptible to mosquito bites, just like humans. And heartworm and West Nile virus (WNV) are legitimate concerns.

Heartworm passes from animal to animal by mosquito bites. A mosquito may bite an infected dog or cat and then carry the infection to the next animal they bite. It is more common for dogs to contract heartworms than it is for cats, but both animals are susceptible to it.

WNV is the most common illness transferred from mosquito to animal. The virus moves into the salivary glands, and dogs and cats can transfer WNV to each other and humans. Often, your pet may not even show signs of infection. Yet, the virus can cause other issues, including encephalitis and meningitis in pets and humans.1

While they might help humans avoid these illnesses, many insect repellents can be toxic for animals.

The Hazards of Bug Spray

Many human-formulated bug sprays contain DEET or diethyltoluamide. DEET is a common ingredient in over-the-counter insect repellents, and it is extremely toxic to pets. If you use these products, make sure your pets don't lick the bug spray off you. Side effects of DEET toxicity include lethargy and depression, corneal ulceration, conjunctivitis, gastrointestinal problems, and neurological issues, such as tremors and seizures.2

Here's a list of insect repellent ingredients to avoid:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • Citronella candles, plants, or other products
  • Garlic plants
  • Geranium plants
  • Marigold plants
  • Citrus fruit peel

Some of these ingredients have low toxicity compared to DEET, such as citrus, but they can cause skin irritation and other problems. If your pet comes into contact with these ingredients or shows signs of poisoning, call your vet or an emergency clinic right away.

Avoid Essential Oils

Can I put bug spray on my dog and cat if the formula is made from essential oils? No, because certain oils can be very toxic, as well. While citrus oils, such as lemon or orange may be okay for dogs, it's best to check with your veterinarian first because any natural oil could cause issues.3

As a rule, essential oils and cats don't mix. Tea tree oil, especially, should never be used on cats — whether in bug spray, a diffuser, shampoo, or other treatment — because it can cause liver failure. It's a good idea to consult with your veterinarian before using any essential oils on or near your cat or dog.

Pet-Specific Products Can Keep Pests Away

So, can I put bug spray on my dog or cat? If it's a bug spray specially formulated for pets, then yes! Adams™ Flea and Tick Spray is a great solution and ideal for multi-pet households — because it's developed with cats and dogs in mind. This spray repels mosquitoes and protects your furry friends from fleas and ticks. Summer is fleeting, so son't let those pesky pests prevent you and your pets from enjoying the great outdoors!

  1. Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "West Nile Virus Doesn't Pose a Huge Threat, But Animal Owners Should Remain Cautious." 23 August 2021.
  2. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "Don't DEET That Dog!" 2021.
  3. Wayne, Annie and Lindsey Krupa. "Are Essential Oils Dangerous to Pets?" TuftsNow. Spring 2019.
Back to Top