Summer is miserable enough without having to worry about itchy, irritating mosquito bites. Unfortunately, those mosquitoes that vex us so often in the summer also bother our pets and can spread serious, sometimes even fatal, diseases to them. Protecting your pets from mosquito bites means keeping your pets away from mosquitoes and making them unattractive mosquito snacks.

The first step is to minimize mosquitoes in your area. This means getting rid of standing water especially. If your pet has an outdoor water dish –and it should if it’s outdoors regularly – you need to empty and clean that dish on a regular basis, at least every two or three days. An untended dish can harbor mosquito eggs and larvae – even the standing water around your pet’s water dish can harbor mosquito eggs and larvae.

In addition, try to keep your pet inside during the hours around dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. This will help to prevent bites from happening in the first place.

If your pet stays outdoors all day, consider using a mosquito trap. You can choose a mosquito trap that uses carbon dioxide to attract and trap pests or one of the nets than can be attached to a box fan. Whichever type of outdoor treatment you choose, make sure that you don’t expose your pet to dangerous chemicals. There are a number of natural plants that help repel mosquitoes – consider planting these near the areas where your pet plays and sleeps outdoors.

There are also mosquito repellent products made specifically for your pets. Don’t use products designed for humans on pets, particularly if the product contains DEET. And if you do choose to use a chemical product, always read and follow label directions exactly. For example, products that are safe for dogs may not be safe for cats, while products that are safe for mature dogs may not be safe for puppies. If you can’t find a product that’s specifically designed to repel mosquitoes, a flea and tick repellent may also provide some protection. If you have trouble finding a repellent spray or product that’s safe for your pet, talk to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Some newer repellent products contain plant extracts and essential oils, instead of chemicals like DEET. However, it isn’t known yet if these products are safe or effective for pets. Citrus oils, for example, can make some pets ill, so use caution if you want to try one of these products on your pet.

If you want to avoid the use of chemical repellents, some changes in your pet’s diet may also help keep mosquitoes away. For example, feeding your pet garlic can change his odor and make him less attractive to mosquitoes. Dietary changes alone, however, may not provide complete protection and you should always make sure your pet is fed a healthy diet. Don’t let your enthusiasm for natural remedies mean that your pet doesn’t get all the vitamins and nutrients he needs.