My dog, Glia, and I spend much of our summer hiking in Minnesota, a state which is known for having plenty of mosquitoes, in addition to ticks and biting flies. The mosquitoes aren’t too bad if we keep moving, but once we settle down for the evening the mosquitoes often come out in full force.
This summer, I did some research into permethrin-treated clothing for both myself and Glia. We found some promising products created by Insect Shield and inquired to see if they would be willing to send us an Insect Shield dog product to review. They sent us not just one, but two products: the Insect Shield Pet Cooling Gaiter and the Insect Shield for Pets Cooling Tank.
Over the past month, we have taken our Insect Shield products to my family’s cabin in Wisconsin, on an overnight backpacking trip along the North Shore, and on a camping trip in Northern Minnesota.
The Insect Shield process binds a proprietary permethrin formula tightly to fabric fibers. If you’re here primarily for the gear review, scroll past our discussion on permethrin. But if you want to learn a little more about permethrin as an insecticide, this post includes a discussion about permethrin before we discuss the actual dog cooling Insect Shield gear.
Permethrin is an insecticide that is part of the pyrethroid family of synthetic chemicals. These chemicals act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. Permethrin affects insects if they eat it or touch it. It damages an insect’s nervous system, causing muscle spasms, paralysis, and death. Permethrin as been used as an EPA-registered product since 1977.
Insect Shield uses a proprietary formulation of permethrin in a system that results in permethrin tightly bound to the fabric fibers of each garment. The insect repellency is reported to last through 70 launderings.
Insect Shield permethrin-treated clothing are reported to repel mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fleas, chiggers, ants, and midges.
Is Permethrin Safe for Dogs?
Permethrin is generally safe to use topically on dogs. In fact, pyrethroids are commonly used in topical flea and tick treatments for dogs. Both K9 Advantix and Vectra 3D (both of which are popular and veterinarian recommend dog flea and tick preventatives) use permethrin in their topical products.
However, as with any product, the amount of permethrin a dog is exposed to does matter. And dogs can act strangley, twitch their skin, or show other signs of irritation after exposure to permethrin. If a dog ingests permethrin they may experience drooling or nausea.
Per the National Pesticide Information Center, in one research study, dogs were fed permethrin for up to 2 years. Those dogs had more tremors than control dogs and they had increased liver sizes. But no other dog-specific effects were reported. So try not to let your dog ingest permethrin, but it should be safe for your dog to wear pre-treated products.
In people, less than 1% of permethrin applied to the skin is absorbed into the body. If ingested, permethrin is quickly absorbed in people, reaching its highest level in the body within 3-4 hours, with declining levels after that point.
*Please note: Cats have a very different reaction to pyrethroids than dogs do. *
Cats that have been exposed by accident to products with high levels of permethrin (such as dog flea and tick products) may have muscle tremors, seizures, and can even die from the exposure. Permethrin should never be used on cats!
That said, most permethrin-treated clothing is said to pose minimal risk to cats once the permethrin is dried into the clothing. So while I wouldn’t recommend having your cat wear permethrin-treated gear, it shouldn’t harm your cat to come into brief contact with a dog wearing Insect Sheild products. If you are treating your own gear at home, make sure your cat doesn’t have any contact with your gear until the product is fully dried!
Is Permethrin Safe for the Environment?
Permethrin can have several effects on the environment. In the soil, it is broken down by microorganisms. But it doesn’t mix very well with water and can stay in the sediment of lakes and streams for over a year. It usually won’t contaminate the ground water, but it is highly toxic to fish and other animals that live in either salt water or fresh water.
Permethrin is low toxicity to birds, but some aerosolized products can harm birds if they inhale it. Additionally, permethrin is highly toxic to bees and other beneficial insects.
Insect Sheild is aware of the risks of permethrin to the environment, as this is one of the reasons that they work to bind the permethrin so tightly to the fabric. Per their website:
Insect Shield puts just enough bug protection right where it is needed—around an individual. Compared to spraying, fogging, or topical insect repellents, Insect Shield products can help reduce overall pesticide and repellent use.
Only a small amount of permethrin is used in each Insect Shield garment, and it is bound tightly to the fabric fibers… Similar to the dye in colorfast clothing, the Insect Shield active ingredient is designed to stay in the garment.
The Insect Shield process utilizes a proprietary system designed for no loss of active ingredient into the environment. Insect Shield manufacturing processes and procedures are designed to be clean, efficient and contained, and our facilities utilize programs that support and promote waste recycling and energy efficiency.https://www.insectshield.com/Environment.aspx
So while permethrin isn’t good for the environment, pre-treated clothing can be a good alternative to sprays or other products that have a higher risk of contaminating the environment.
Why I Chose Permethrin Treated Gear
Just about every insecticide/ insect repellent option has some potential side effects. And specific research of products on dogs is a little hard to come by for non-permethrin insect repellents and insecticides.
Permethrin is perhaps one of the most researched insecticides used on dogs, as large companies have had to perform extensive safety testing in order to market their permethrin containing topical flea and tick products.
Just because it is well-reasearched, doesn’t mean a product is safe or good, but I also like that clothing can be pre-treated with permethrin limiting the amount of permethrin needed each year to keep your dog protected.
Treating clothing with permethrin limits the need for reapplication of a product and ultimately reduces the amount of a chemical in the environment. Since the permethrin in Insect Shield products is tightly bound to the fabric, this also means less of the permethrin will absorb into a dog’s skin when wearing this product (versus applying a topical or using a spray or wipe).
Okay, that’s enough about permethrin for now. It’s time to share with you a bit more about Insect Shield as a company and then how their dog cooling neck gaiter and tank actually performed out on the trail.
Insect Shield Dog Gear
Insect Shield was founded in 2001. In 2003, they introduced the first EPA-registered insect repellent apparel. They expanded their line of products to include pets in 2011.
Today Insect Shield produces pet bandanas, neck gaiters, and tank tops for sale on their official site. They have even more pet products available for purchase on Amazon.com.
The images below are Amazon links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Insect Shield Cooling Neck Gaiter and Cooling Tank
The two products we received from Insect Shield were the Cooling Neck Gaiter and the Cooling Tank.
Both of these products are lightweight and a slightly stretchy material that is 90% nylon and 10% spandex. They contain 0.52% permethrin for insect repellency of mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and fleas.
In addition to the insect repellency, these “cooling” products are also infused with jade powder or what Insect Shield calls JADECOOL technology. The jade powder is infused into the fibers of the nylon yarn, to help the fabric absorb heat from your dog and release it into the environment. This is reported to be a permanent function that provides an immediate cooling sensation for your dog during hot and humid conditions.
Sizing and Fit
Glia is a 40-pound mutt, which a chest of about 26-inch diameter and a neck of about 16-inch diameter.
The neck gaiter comes in 3 sizes:
The size medium fits Glia well. It was comfortable for her to wear all day on our recent backpacking trip. Glia typically wears a harness when we hike, so we did not have a leash attached through the leash attachment opening in the neck gaiter.
Without a leash attached to her collar, the neck gaiter did roll up a little as she walked. But it mostly stayed in the same position as her collar. If I attempted to pull it up to cover her ears, it would only stay in that position temporarily before sliding back down her neck. Potentially it was not tight enough to stay up around her ears.
The cooling tank comes in 7 different sizes:
While the size medium does fit around Glia’s chest, the extra length of the large helps protect her better from insects. So Glia is wearing the large tank in all of the pictures included in this blog post.
While the large tank fits very well when Glia is not wearing a harness, it is a little big and stretchy to wear comfortably under her harness. As she walks, the tank tends to move backward under her harness. This results in the tank becoming tight across her shoulders and chest.
As a result, Glia ended up wearing only her neck gaiter for a portion of our hikes. But the tank was the perfect solution for when we settled down in the evening to camp.
Glia has worn her neck gaiter and cooling tank on several hikes now. And during those hikes, I wore a large neck gaiter as a headband to help me assess how well the products were working.
Overall, both the gaiter and the tank seemed to do a good job of repelling mosquitoes. I definitely had fewer mosquitoes buzzing around my head when wearing the neck gaiter. And Glia did not have any mosquitoes land near her neck gaiter. Instead, the mosquitoes chose to land on her thighs and occasionally her ears.
Results were a little more variable with biting flies. And unfortunately (or fortunately) we have not seen any ticks this past month to test these products out on.
Because these permethrin-treated products do not cover the entire body, you will likely still have to pair them with some other type of insect repellency to protect your dog’s head and legs.
In the evening, when the mosquitoes were out in force, the tank top came in really handy. For some reason, mosquitoes seem to be really attracted to Glia. I am typically swatting several off of her while we set up camp and eat dinner.
The Insect Shield tank was the perfect solution. While I did still occasionally see a couple mosquitoes on her ears, Glia was mostly mosquito-free all evening while wearing her neck gaiter and tank.
And happily, both items are lightweight enough to even bring with on backpacking trips. The M neck gaiter weighs 0.6 oz and the L tank weights 1.6 oz.
Honestly, I am not sure how well the JADECOOL feature works. The fabric is typically cool to the touch when first put on, especially if damp or placed in the fridge or freezer before use. However, when I wore the neck gaiter around my head or neck, it warmed up to skin temperature pretty quickly. So like many other dog cooling products, it shouldn’t hurt, but I am unsure how much it will actually help your dog cool off.
On the plus side though, the tank is very lightweight with mesh all along the sides. It is also a bright color which should help reduce solar radiation (especially for a black dog, like Glia).
Overall, I am very happy with the insect Shield dog gear. The neck gaiter is easy to have Glia wear on every buggy hike. And the tank is a perfect solution for mosquito-infested evenings around the campfire.
We love that the Insect Shield products are treated with a tightly bound permethrin, limiting the amount of chemical that we are introducing into the environment in our effort to reduce bug bites. Both of these products are labeled for repellency to remain effective for 25 washings, so if we limit our washing of these products they should last a couple of years.
Honestly, I am happy enough with these products for the pups, that I am looking into purchasing some Insect Shield gear for myself in the near future.
If you are interested in purchasing Insect Shield gear for your own dog, head over to Amazon and check out their neck gaiter and pet tank.
Do you use permethrin treated gear for your dog? If so, what do you think? Does it work well? Has your dog ever had any reactions to permethrin treated clothing? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Happy Hiking Everyone!
Kate, Glia, and Sasha
3 thoughts on “Insect Repellent Clothing for Dogs: An Insect Shield Product Review”
This is a very thoughtful article. I know it doesn’t apply to hiking but have you done anything research into life preservers for dogs?
Actually, I am working on researching that very topic right now 🙂