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Homemade Mosquito Repellent for Dogs

Living on a farm in Brazil, I've gained local in-depth knowledge of food, plants, and traditions, which I share through my articles.


Easy to Make Mosquito Repellent for You and Your Dogs

Where I live in Brazil, mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are a constant problem for dogs. This problem increases during our wet season, which runs from December to May. Although there are insecticides and repellents, to combat these pests, I prefer to use natural products for myself, my animals, and my home.
When I read about the ingredient list of chemicals that are in some of the repellents, I can't believe these are sold to the general public. Although DEET is now marketed as safe for humans, it isn't the case for pets. Because animals lick their fur they will be consuming some internally which is toxic to them. That fact alone tells me it is not something I want on my skin, either. I believe you don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't be willing to eat. Your skin is the largest organ you have, so why would you spray it with something toxic?

Does Fur Protect Against Insect Bites?

At the moment I have two dogs, a medium sized mongrel, and a Doberman cross. The mongrel has longer hair than the Doberman thus protecting her from mosquito bites on her sides, neck, and back. Her ears, legs, and abdomen area are still susceptible to insect bites. The Doberman has short hair and when she is bitten it shows. She'll get raised lumps that are visible through her short fur.

I don't like the thought of either of them being bitten and so I made it my goal to find a pet-friendly natural repellent for them.

Because my neighbors have lived here all their lives, I mentioned to them I wanted a natural mosquito repellent. Not only do they have homemade recipes for repellents, they also are a wealth of information about medicinal uses for the various plants growing in this region.

Using Citronella for Insect repellent

Using Citronella for Insect repellent

How to Make Mosquito Repellent at Home

You might be wondering if you can just go and buy a mosquito repellent specific for dogs. Yes, you can, but you can also easily make it yourself. That way you know what's in it and that it's safe. I make two types here at my home. One has a base of citronella, which I have growing here at my home. The dogs love this plant and I often see them eating it and also throwing themselves into the center of it to have a good roll around. I am assuming they do this because they know the scent protects them from insects or they just like rolling in a fluffy plant.

The other one I make is one with a base of cloves. To make this is super easy. The ingredients are simple and easy to find.

  • Rubbing alcohol, cloves, and a little baby oil. That's it!

Although I don't do it, other people around here add whole peeled garlic cloves to this mixture. I have seen it sitting on people's counters when I go into local shops. As you know, cloves are very pungent and it's their strong smell that makes this mixture work.

To make it you just pour a small packet of whole cloves (not ground) into the bottle of alcohol. Leave it for 3 days. Add a few drops of baby oil to make it easier on the skin. What you'll be left with is a brown, rather disgusting looking liquid that smells like Christmas! To apply, I put it in a small spray bottle, which is fine for me but my dogs prefer me to put some in my hand and rub it over their bodies. It is the sound of the spray they don't like, so I just rub it on them.

I know it works because if I forget to apply it, in the morning, her smooth coat is covered in small lumps.

Be warned though, the mixture with cloves can stain things brown so don't apply it to yourself and wear white clothing.


Home Made Insect Repellent Using Citronella

For the citronella, the procedure is the same, I choose to chop the citronella up and then put it in the bottle of alcohol after removing any older or tough parts of the plant. Again I leave it for 3 days. The liquid will have a green tinge but this I also use this to spray around my house. I find this a much better solution than buying expensive and toxic chemicals which are found in commercial insecticides.

I generally use the plant and not essential oils however you can use them if you prefer. Read the label for correct dilution rates.

There are many different plants that are effective against unwanted pests.

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For the control of mosquitoes the following work well:

  • citronella
  • peppermint
  • lemon
  • eucalyptus
  • grapefruit
  • basil
  • thyme
  • geranium
  • lemongrass
  • lavender

Apple Cider Vinegar as an Insect Repellent

Another popular and easy to make repellent is using apple cider vinegar. The insects hate the smell and acid of vinegar.

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup witch hazel
  • 5 drops citronella oil

Combine and put into a spray bottle. Reapply as needed.

Suitable for Humans

Although this article is aimed at safe natural repellents for dogs, they are also safe for humans and I also use this as my repellent. The only thing you have to be aware of is the potential for staining using the cloves (brown) or the citronella (green). This is of course not an issue if you use the essential oils.

Repellents, Insecticides and Pesticides

These are three words we hear and often they're used interchangeably. There is a reason for the confusion as some of the insecticides and pesticides leave behind smells and chemicals that act as a repellent. Let's clear up some of the confusion.

  • Repellents are applied to the skin and are used on humans and animals. Repellents help prevent the insect from biting.
  • Insecticides are used to kill insects and may be formulated to work on one type such as mosquitoes or it may be a multi-insecticide which will kill several.
  • Pesticides are used against pests, insects being one. Pesticides also can include products that are made to work against rodents (rodenticides), fungi, weeds, snails, ticks, mites etc.

In the US the products are now labeled with warnings that are dependent on their toxicity.

  • Caution
  • Warning
  • Danger
  • Poison

© 2017 Mary Wickison


Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 27, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

You're welcome. I now have just the dog in the photo at the top. Her fur protects her from mosquitoes other than on the inside of her legs.

We also get small gnats which annoy her, this mixture helps repel those as well. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 26, 2020:

Right now we are without any canine or feline buddies, but I will remember this for the future. This is good information to know. Thanks for sharing it.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on October 26, 2018:

Hi Shauna,

The citronella is very light, it's the cloves that causes a problem. I think this coming wet season, I will experiment with neem leaves as well. We also have a tangerine tree that would smell lovely as a repellent.

It's a balance of finding one that will work as a repellent for mosquitoes but not repel people. LOL

It also has to be something that won't cause skin irritation. Just because something is 'natural' doesn't mean it isn't an irritant or should be considered safe.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 12, 2018:

Excellent article, Mary. I'll have to hang on to this one. We have a mosquito problem here in Florida, too. I guess all tropical climes do. I don't use chemicals on my skin. I buy natural, plant-based sprays. I like the idea of making bug repellent myself. I wonder if there's any way to get around the staining?

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on May 23, 2018:

Hi Ajodo,

Unfortunately, I no longer have lemongrass, but after reading your comment, I may try and burn some citronella. This year has been a bad year for mosquitoes here.

Although my dogs are now used to having this applied, they still act like they don't like it. And yet, when they are playing, they will throw themselves into the citronella plant.

Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you found it useful.

Ajodo Endurance Uneojo from Lokoja, Nigeria. on May 23, 2018:

Hi Mary,

This article got me thinking on how to identify some of the plants you mentioned. Well, know lemongrass. As a children, we burn them fresh to keep mosquitoes away. Scent is friendly if not romantic (lol).

Off course, mosquitoes are big problem in my region. That makes this article really helpful and interesting. I pick up great stuffs from this article, and with a little google search, I might be on my way to trying one of your recipes.

Thanks for sharing.

Larry W Fish from Raleigh on December 11, 2017:

For the arthritis pain I use the apple cider vinegar externally. For a while I was taking a teaspoon a day and I did notice it made me feel better. Apple cider vinegar is good for a lot of ailments.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on December 11, 2017:

Hi Larry,

With the apple cider vinegar, are you using externally on the affected area or using in place of other kinds of vinegar for example in salad dressings?

I too prefer natural remedies so I know and am in control of what I use on both myself and my dogs.

Larry W Fish from Raleigh on December 11, 2017:

An interesting article, Mary. It seems like almost anything we buy commercially is toxic with chemicals. My wife and I also try to get natural products when possible. Apple Cider vinegar is also good for arthritis pain.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on November 30, 2017:

Hi Kari,

You're very welcome, let me know how they work out for you.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on November 27, 2017:

Hi Dora,

That is true, mosquitoes aren't choosey. I love the smell of both the cloves and the citronella so and happy to use either on myself.

Thanks for your comment.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on November 26, 2017:

Thanks for these recipes. I will try them once spring arrives. :)

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 26, 2017:

Read it through although there are no dogs here. Glad to read that the recipes are good for humans too. After all, the insects do not make any distinction about whose flesh they are biting. Thank you.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 25, 2017:

Thank you for sharing the recipes, Mary. They sound great. Mosquitoes aren't a big problem where I live. If they were, I would definitely consider your suggestions for the dogs in my family.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on November 25, 2017:

Oh, that must have been a wonderful holiday.

Ants are a problem here as well. Before moving here I thought there were two types black ones and red ones. I also thought it was only the red ones which were biters. I was so naive!

Some of these here will climb all the way to my armpit before biting. I will often wear socks and flip flops, a tip from my neighbor when I rake or work in the garden. Apparently, there are 22,000 types of ants and we have ones so tiny they are almost invisible up to huge ones with black heads.

Glen Rix from UK on November 25, 2017:

Hi Mary. I picked up this article because the avoidance of insect bites has been on my list of priorities recently - I’m in Singapore. I’ve managed to evade the mossies but DEET smells dreadful and so does the local commercial alternative, which contains tiger balm and is very oily. So a homemade repellent would have been very welcome ( as would have been tips to repel the ants that have attacked my ankles). I’m heading home in a couple of days but will pass on your tips to the family.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on November 25, 2017:

Wow, Bill, I didn't know that. Mosquitoes are always here it's just the quantities that vary.

It seems Maggie May won't be needing any repellent.

Great to hear from you.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 25, 2017:

Very cool suggestions! In truth, we might have mosquitoes about five days per year here, and that's only if we are careless about leaving standing water around in containers, but thanks for the suggestions.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on November 25, 2017:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

So true. One I didn't mention is neem which we use on our coconut trees. Although I know people will use the neem oil, I don't like the smell of the plants.

Our house is open all day but the waft of a stinking repellent I don't want.

Thanks for reading.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 25, 2017:

I like that you provide a variety of possibilities. I don’t have a dog but I do have cats and the grooming with most of them is impeccable so it’ll end up in their digestive system. Plus, I’ll be nd up with the smell curled up next to me (multiplied). It might as well be a pleasant smell!

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