Pets and certain bugs have well-known associations. Fleas plague cats, dogs, and even sometimes rats, and mosquito bites can transmit things like heartworm to dogs. Animals should not be flea infested, or be susceptible to ticks and mosquitoes, but bug spray may not be the best way to go about helping your pet remain free of bugs.
The question of whether bug spray is safe for pets deserves some attention. First, is the bug spray one intended for animals? Is it intended as an insect repellent for humans? Alternately, is the spray a pesticide you’re spraying in your house or on plants to kill bugs? There are so many different types of bug sprays on the market that you can’t simply give a yes or no answer to this question.
Some bug sprays for animals are perfectly safe, though you should consult a vet when you plan to use any products on your pets. Some have naturally based ingredients but this doesn’t necessarily make them safe. Products containing tea tree oil and pennyroyal may be sold as natural bug spray for pets, but they haven’t been proven particularly effective, and they do have potential health risks for cats and dogs.
Most bug sprays for pets that are not manufactured as “natural” have distinct warnings on them about using with care. It’s a good idea to consider whether a spray, which can be inhaled by both you and your pet, is really a good way to go if the spray claims hazards to people and pets. Insect repellents for humans, such as products containing DEET should never be used on your pets.
DEET is especially dangerous to animals and may cause them to develop neurological conditions. If you want to use DEET on yourself, use it when you are far away from your pets, and consider lotion rather than bug spray forms which won’t act as inhalants. Any other contact between the lotion or bug spray containing DEET and your pet should be avoided.
Bug sprays used in the home to kill bugs are often toxic. If you’re using sprays to get rid of cockroaches, ants or the like, you should remove your pet from the home while you use them. It is safer to use animal trapping mechanisms or products like ant stakes, providing your animal can’t get at them. There is considerable concern about the use of most chemical pesticides, especially in spray form, in homes. These may be dangerous to pets and people alike.
A number of other spray chemicals may endanger your pets. Parrots and other birds are notoriously susceptible to many cleaning and air freshening products. You should watch how your animal behaves in your home when you plan to use any cleaning chemicals or bug spray. If you dog or cat routinely licks themselves, carpets, the floor, or anyplace that you may have sprayed known toxins, you could be endangering your pet.
The best advice is to ask your veterinarian what insect repellents are most recommended for your pets. Many of the “spot” treatments are far safer to animals than a bug spray would be. Unless directed by a vet, certainly don’t use bug spray intended for humans on your cats or dogs. Even those marketed as "natural" can cause skin irritation in pets, but not humans.