What is DEET Toxicity?
DEET, scientifically known as N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, is a chemical substance that is clear and made up of several different isomers. This penetration enhancing product is used with other products to further absorb into the skin. This chemical is used in many products on the skin of children and adults in order to prevent mosquitos, gnats, and other insects that bite and chew on people.
In some products used on animals, DEET is a small percentage of an ingredient. It is effective in controlling fleas and ticks, as well as mosquitos. When used normally and correctly, many dogs do not have reactions from the DEET, although some do. The reactions may range from irritated, itchy skin that becomes red and inflamed.
In some cases, when dogs are overexposed to DEET-containing products they become poisoned. Using DEET inappropriately or in excess can cause toxicity. Spraying DEET products in the dog’s eyes, face, and mouth will cause poisoning from contact as well as inhalation. Ingesting DEET products can cause severe gastrointestinal distress.
DEET is a popular chemical used in many insect repellant products. DEET toxicity in dogs is a result of dogs ingesting the chemical, coming into skin contact with the chemical, or inhalation of the substance.
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Symptoms of DEET Toxicity in Dogs
When dogs are overexposed to DEET, symptoms may vary depending on the type of exposure. Symptoms include:
- Redness of eyes
- Face irritation
- Red and inflamed skin
- Inflammation of the stomach
- Burning eyes
There are many products on the market today which contain DEET. Insect and pest control products and repellants are very popular among people who are animal owners. Types of products which contain DEET include:
- Mosquito repellant sprays
- Pest control sprays
- Lotions that repel pests
- Flea treatments for dogs
- Tick treatments for dogs
Causes of DEET Toxicity in Dogs
It is very important to keep your dog away from DEET, unless it is applied according to specific instructions on the container. Although the specific mechanism of action is unknown causes of DEET toxicity may include:
- Chemicals negatively affecting the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract
- Topical application absorbs into the skin within six hours
- Repeated application of DEET causes overexposure
- DEET remains within the skin and the fatty tissue of the skin for up to two months per application
- Metabolism occurs within the liver
Diagnosis of DEET Toxicity in Dogs
If your dog has been overexposed to a DEET-containing product, take him to the veterinarian. You may also choose to take the product in with you. The veterinarian will ask a variety of questions pertaining to how your dog was exposed to DEET, whether on the skin, sprayed in the face, consumed, or overused.
The veterinarian will do a complete physical examination, including blood work, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. You may also choose to take a closer look into the gastrointestinal tract through imaging or endoscopic procedures. Your veterinarian may also check his fecal matter to see if any DEET is within the stools, thus passing through his body.
If your dog is having a skin reaction, your veterinarian will take a look at his skin and assess the situation symptomatically. If your dog has consumed DEET, any chemicals will reveal themselves within the laboratory testing that the veterinarian chooses to perform in order to come to a conclusive diagnosis.
Treatment of DEET Toxicity in Dogs
Treatment methods may vary depending on the type of contact your dog has suffered from. Treatment methods may include:
Decontamination is very important if your dog has overexposure on the skin or has been sprayed in the eyes and mouth. The veterinarian will immediately wash and thoroughly rinse your dog’s face, skin, and Paul’s to effectively remove the chemical as much as possible.
If your dog has inhaled a great deal of this chemical, toxicity may occur. The veterinarian will treat this level of toxicity with medications, such as steroids, bronchodilators, and possible antihistamines. Along with these methods, your dog will also require oxygen therapy. If your dog has a severe allergic reaction and is having seizures or tremors, benzodiazepines may be administered.
If exposure was oral, meaning your dog consumed a great deal of DEET product, emesis is not recommended because it increases the risk of aspiration. Your veterinarian may choose to administer activated charcoal and give antiemetic medication.
Recovery of DEET Toxicity in Dogs
Severe poisoning caused by DEET is not common, and if your dog suffered from severe toxicity he can still recover, although the prognosis is guarded to good. Your dog may have been hospitalized due to a severe toxic reaction, or seen within one doctor’s visit if his reaction was mild.
Once your dog is able to go home, the veterinarian will give you instructions, especially if he is on any medications. It is important to follow the directions on the medication label and continue to give him the medications until they run out. The veterinarian will also want to see him for follow-up visits to be sure he is becoming well again. The medical professional will alert you to any new symptoms or behavioral changes to watch for, and if you see any new symptoms or behaviors he will recommend that you get in touch with him as soon as possible.
In order to prevent DEET toxicity in the future, be sure to keep all DEET products out of the reach of your dog, use DEET products exactly as the label prescribes, especially if he is on flea and tick medication, and when spraying DEET on you or any others be sure to spray the substance outside and away from your dog.