When your mother said: “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” she was saying a little prayer that you (or she) would never have to deal with these relentless, hard-to-kill pests. Bed bugs feed on your blood, and they’re notoriously difficult to get rid of once you have an infestation.
Contrary to what you may have heard, bed bugs can infest clean homes, too. Bed bugs can be picked up from virtually anywhere: hotels, homes, and even in bedding purchased from stores. But can your pets bring them into your home?
Table of Contents
1. Can Bed Bugs Live on Dogs and Cats?
Dogs and cats can transport and host fleas, but what about bed bugs? Both insects are parasites and have similar diets, but bed bugs won’t bite pets unless they have to. They won’t hitch a ride on their backs into your home either.
These critters feed for about 3-5 minutes before heading back to their nest, which is usually just a few feet away from the host.
While you may not find these bugs in your cat’s fur, you may find them in your cat’s bed, carrier, crate or bedding.
Although bed bugs aren’t known to use dogs and cats as a mode of transportation, they my hitch a ride in luggage, bedding and clothing.
2. Do Bed Bugs Bite Dogs and Cats?
A bed bug will only bite a dog or cat if there is no human host to feast on. Bed bugs have a sense that can detect a human’s carbon dioxide signature. If you’re in a room with your dog and the bug is closer to Fido than you, the bed bug will still migrate to you.
In simple terms, pets are a last resort as a meal.
Bed bugs prefer to feed on humans because our carbon dioxide signature is far more attractive to them. But if there’s no human nearby, make no mistake about it, these bugs will feast on dogs, cats, birds – it doesn’t matter.
3. Are Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs Real?
Bed bugs are quick critters, and unless you see one with your own eyes, you may not know you have an infestation.
Dogs and their keen sense of smell are helping exterminators, hotels and other facilities detect infestations. Using special training techniques, these bug-sniffing dogs have an incredible 97% accuracy rating at finding live infestations.
Humans have a 37% accuracy rate when trying to detect bugs visually.
If you suspect you have an infestation, there may be a provider near you that can lend their canine-sniffing services.
4. Do Bed Bugs Spread Disease to Pets?
Fleas and ticks are known to spread diseases to our furry companions, but what about bed bugs?
Thankfully, bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases to pets – or humans.
With that said, one bite from this bug can cause an allergic reaction in some animals. Multiple bites can lead to a serious reaction and skin infection.
If you think your pet has been bit by bed bugs, a trip to the vet may be in order – especially if there are signs of an allergic reaction.
5. What to Do if You Find Bed Bugs in Your Pet’s Bed
If you find bed bugs in Fido’s bed or the bedding in his crate, heat will be your biggest ally in the fight against these pesky pests.
Heat is Your Best Friend
Depending on the size of the bed and its care instructions, you may be able to toss it in the dryer for 20-30 minutes on high heat. One cycle through the dryer should kill the bugs and their eggs.
Washing the bedding can help, too, but it’s the heat that kills the bug and the eggs. If you do wash the bedding, be sure to wash in hot water (120 degrees).
Unfortunately, we can’t toss human mattresses and furniture in the dryer to kill infestations. If you’re finding bed bugs in your sofa or bed, you will need to take alternative measures – and quickly.
Clean the Crate
While the bedding is being cleaned, take the time to wipe down your pet’s crate with rubbing alcohol.
Next, vacuum and/or sweep the area.
Call in a Professional
It’s important to take action at the first sign of bed bugs. Washing and drying bedding in high heat is a great place to start and may stop the infestation dead in its tracks. The key word here is “may.”
You don’t want to take chances with bed bugs – they can be very difficult to exterminate completely.
Consider calling in a professional to inspect your home. If there are bed bugs in your pet’s bedding, there are probably more hiding in your sofa, bed or somewhere else in your home.
6. Preventing Bed Bugs in Pet Bedding
Unless you’ve been traveling with your pet’s bed in tow, there’s a good chance that the bed bug infestation was your fault (accidentally, of course). Bed bugs can make their way into your home through luggage, clothing and bedding.
Fido probably didn’t bring home these critters – unless he was at someone else’s home.
One way to prevent bed bugs from infesting your pet’s bed is to inspect the bedding in any hotel you stay in very carefully. This means checking the headboard, mattress, and box spring.
Check your luggage, too, for any signs of bug fecal matter before leaving the hotel.
If you do find any signs of bed bugs, alert the hotel front desk immediately, so they can take care of the problem right away.
If you think you may have come in contact with bed bugs while traveling, unpack your luggage outside and toss all clothing into the dryer immediately to kill any bugs.
Remember: bed bugs don’t live on pets, and will only bite them if there are no humans close by. While not harmful to pets, their bites can cause an allergic reaction or skin infection. If you suspect you may have bed bugs, take action immediately by tossing bedding into the dryer on high heat and calling in a professional exterminator to conduct an inspection.