Insect repellent toxicity and dogs
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Insect repellent toxicity and dogs

Whilst the summer weather has a lot of good things going for it and most of us enjoy the warmer, lighter months of the year with our dogs immensely, summer does come accompanied by certain season-specific hazards for dogs too, such as overheating and sunstroke.

Another summer hazard that can pose a danger to dogs is the use of certain types of insect repellents, which many of us rely upon in the hot weather to keep biting bugs that can make your life a misery at bay. By their nature, insect repellents are designed to repel and discourage biting bugs like midges, mosquitos, flying ants and other summer nasties, and they also contain a level of toxicity to them as well-which can pose a threat to the health of dogs, if used improperly.

In this article, we will look at insect repellent toxicity in dogs in more detail, including why they are toxic, how they can cause problems, and how to identify the symptoms of a problem in your own dog. Read on to learn more.

Why are some insect repellents toxic?

First of all, insect repellents come in a wide variety of different brands and types, from the all-natural and types that you can make at home, to those that contain toxic chemical compounds in order to address persistent biting bugs, and which are often used by people that seem to be targeted more than others!

A lot of insect repellents, particularly those intended for children, will contain more natural ingredients such as citronella and other natural insect repellents, but some products rely upon chemicals and toxins in order to prove effective, and for some people, these are the only type that work effectively.

One of the most common and popular insect repellents used worldwide because it is so effective is known as DEET, or to give it its chemical name, N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide. DEET is a chemical compound that is widely used in countries where mosquitos are not only an inconvenience but a potential health hazard, and due to its effectiveness, it is commonly sold as an ingredient in products in the UK too.

However, DEET is also deliberately left out of many repellents for people who prefer a more natural approach, and such products usually use the fact that they are DEET-free as a marketing hook.

The active ingredient in DEET is a strong toxin, and application instructions for it state that it should only be sprayed on clothes, and not directly onto the skin, although such advice is often overlooked. Deet should of course not be used on pets or in their immediate presence either, due to the associated risk.

What is the risk to dogs?

If your dog is suffering from attacks by biting bugs in the summer, this can be annoying for the dog and of course, potentially worrying for their owners, if your dog suddenly appears to have several large, angry bite marks on them that are itchy and irritating.

This means that dog owners often wonder if there is a product or substance that can be used to keep bugs away from the dog as well as their owners-and it is all too easy to think that using your own insect repellent on your dog might help.

However, repellents that are not specifically stated as non-toxic to animals should never be used on dogs, and spraying your dog with DEET or a similar repellent will ultimately result in them ingesting the product when they lick their coat. They can also potentially ingest the product by licking the skin of people that have applied DEET or a similar chemical to themselves.

What are the symptoms of insect repellent toxicity in dogs?

Precisely how much DEET or other products your dog needs to ingest before it becomes a problem can vary considerably from dog to dog, and there is no set toxic dosage or amount-the results will depend on the individual dog in question.

The symptoms can vary too, in terms of severity and effect, but may include any or all of the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Skin irritation.
  • Shakes or tremors.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Seizures.

What to do if your dog has come into contact with a toxic insect repellent

If you know or suspect that your dog has come into contact with DEET or a similar insect repellent, the first thing that you should do is immediately wash them off, so that the product is removed from their skin and coat.

If your dog starts displaying symptoms such as those outlined above, call your vet immediately for advice, and be prepared to take them to the clinic as an emergency if advised to. Take the bottle or packaging from the product used too, as this may be necessary for your vet to establish what is affecting them, and so, decide how to treat it.

Once at the clinic, your vet is likely to either try to induce vomiting or use activated charcoal to absorb the product from the stomach, and from that point, treatment will depend on monitoring the symptoms and responding accordingly.

The prognosis for dogs that have ingested a toxic insect repellent is generally good, if treatment is sought and delivered promptly-but it is of course better to avoid such problems altogether by keeping repellents well away from your dog, and not applying them directly to your own skin.

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