Beetles, ticks and mosquitos…oh my! This is the time of year when the bugs go wild! To help repel the little blood suckers that are commonly mistaken for our state bird during the months of June, July and August, you may be tempted to give your favorite pup a splash of DEET before you head out on an evening stroll. Unfortunately, studies have shown that this chemical can have side effects, on both animals and humans, that far outweigh the benefits of the temporary protection they may provide. However, with the threat of West Nile virus (not to mention, all the other diseases associated with insect transmission), it’s difficult to imagine doing nothing at all for your dog. There are natural remedies that aid in repelling insects. Citronella Oil, for example, is sometimes mixed into lotions and soaps. On the contrary, some may find that citronella doesn’t have the staying power that traditional bug sprays exhibit. Eucalyptus Oil is another ingredient that is often found in natural bug repellents, but be cautious: The ASPCA lists Eucalyptus as a poisonous plant to dogs, cats and horses. So what is safe to use on your dog to keep the pests at bay?

There are many products on the market, specially formulated for dogs, that will keep him relatively bug free. But this week, Wisconsin Pet Care looks into a little talked about solution found in nature: The Neem Plant. This evergreen plant has many applications, including: *Antiseptic – Neem oil’s antiseptic properties have been proven to be effective in the treatment of skin infections – which helps reduce the need for antibiotic therapy *Anti-inflammatory – It reduces fever and swelling from bug bites and other skin abrasions. *Skin-balancing – Keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy with the naturally-occurring moisturizing properties of the Neem Plant. *Insecticide – A common pest deterrent used by organic farmers, neem oil is a safer alternative than traditional pesticides (now you won’t have to panic every time you see your dog taking a nibble of grass). These qualities are all great reasons to keep a bottle of Neem Oil in your pet’s First Aid kit, but it is also a very animal-friendly way to keep your dog bug-free all summer long. One of the best things about neem oil is that it doesn’t just repel mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, it can actually kill some species of these insects (all while being safe for your dog).

Our warm winter has allowed bugs to multiply and thrive. Now that summer is in full swing, you don’t want to be shut indoors on account of a few crawling critters. Keep you and your dog safe from bug bites by using neem oil or another form of natural bug repellent. Just keep in mind that products labeled as, “natural” are not always safe for your pet. Use the ASPCA’s Toxic Plant List as a guide before utilizing any plant-based remedy.