After shakedown, McDougal began duty with the Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet. Prior to America’s entry into World War I, she operated out of New York and Newport, Rhode Island and carried out maneuvers and tactical exercises along the East Coast. She cruised to the Caribbean and took part in fleet war games between January and May 1916, and in addition served intermittently with the neutrality patrol. For the first three months of 1917, she again joined in exercises in the Caribbean and then returned to New York and Newport to prepare for distant service.
McDougal departed Boston on 24 April 1917 and steamed with the pioneer American destroyer group under Comdr. J. K. Taussig to Queenstown, Ireland, arriving there 4 May. Among the first destroyers to join English forces for duty after the entry of the United States into World War I, she patrolled off the Irish coast and escorted convoys of merchant ships and troop transports through waters menaced by German submarines to British ports and the French coast. She carried out unrelenting patrols against the U-boats and, in addition, performed rescue operations in the war zone. When British ship Manchester Miller was torpedoed and sunk on 5 June 1917, McDougal sped to her assistance and rescued 33 survivors.
On 8 September, as McDougal escorted a convoy off the southwest coast of England, she detected a surfaced submarine in the early hours of and gave chase at full speed. The U-boat submerged about 500 yards ahead of the closing destroyer and McDougal dropped two depth charges, which brought an oil slick to the surface. Her skillful maneuvering and prompt attack saved the convoy from attack and resulted in probable damage to the submarine.
McDougal collided with the British merchantman Glenmorag in the Irish Sea on 4 February 1918 and until mid-July underwent repairs at Liverpool. Thence, during the remaining months of World War I she operated out of Brest, France as an escort for convoys approaching and departing that vital Allied port. Following the Armistice, she served as part of the escort for George Washington when the transport arrived at Brest 13 December with President Woodrow Wilson embarked.
McDougal departed Brest 21 December with Destroyer Division 7 and reached New York 8 January 1919. She resumed duty along the east coast and during May provided part of the comprehensive at-sea support as Navy seaplanes undertook the historic first aerial crossing of the Atlantic. After completing exercises in the Caribbean, she was placed in commission in reserve at New York 7 August. She was laid up in reduced commission at Philadelphia and Charleston in the years that followed, but trained in New England waters during the summer of 1921.McDougal decommissioned at Philadelphia on 26 May 1922 and transferred to the Treasury Department 7 June 1924 for service with the US Coast Guard.
Returned to the custody of the Navy 30 June 1933, McDougal remained in noncommissioned status. In accordance with terms of the London Treaty, she was ordered scrapped on 29 June 1934. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 5 July and she was sold for scrap to Michael Flynn, Inc., Brooklyn, New York on 22 August.