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Bed Bugs on Dogs and Other Pets

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Bed bugs are becoming a pest epidemic. While they don’t usually damage your home or seriously threaten your health, they create plenty of suffering in the form of itchy welts. They’re also quite expensive to get rid of, and sometimes even the best treatments take two or three applications to get every last bug. If you share your home with dogs, cats, or other furry animals, you’ll need to check them out for signs of infestation too even though these bugs prefer the taste of human blood.

Can My Pets Get Bed Bugs?

While you may have heard all sorts of horror stories about pet owners finding giant colonies of bed bugs on dogs, those stories simply aren’t true. Bed bugs feed nearly exclusively on humans, and they’re not equipped to crawl through fur and hair like fleas or ticks. However, your dog’s endless itching and the pink spots on your cat’s exposed skin could be due to bed bug bites. The insects will nibble on four-legged friends if they’ve built up a massive infestation in the pet’s bedding or the couch where you dog loves to sit. However, they won’t live on the pets themselves or spread to areas covered in fur. You’ll mostly notice irritation around the eyes, ears, and rear where there is more exposed skin. Check the bedding — unless the seams and edges are visibly thick with the dark red specks that indicate bed bugs, your pet is likely struggling with a different kind of pest. However, pets can still carry in bed bugs if they travel to an infested area and some of the insects hitch a ride on them.

How Do I Treat My Infested Pets?

Giving your pet a bath with an anti-itch shampoo, or similar wipes and sprays for cats, is about the only way to help them with the irritation caused by bed bug wipes. Instead of focusing on the pet, work on the environment. As with humans, the pests live on soft surfaces like mattresses and couches. However, it is a lot easier to clean a pet’s bed or favorite blanket than usual. Toss the cover or the whole thing in the washing machine, then tumble dry it for at least 30 minutes at the highest heat setting. It’s the heat that kills the bugs and their eggs, so make sure you use the dryer even if you don’t need to wash the bedding. Couches and other larger pieces of furniture need the same general pesticide treatment you’re already using to deal with the general bed bug infestation. There’s no need to see the vet or get special shampoos and drops for the pet, unless the bites set off a major skin reaction that doesn’t get better on its own.

Can I Prevent My Pets From Bringing In Bed Bugs?

Keep your dog or cat at home if you’re concerned about bringing bed bugs in. They won’t pick up the pests just from going in the yard, but it can happen from time spent at a relative’s house on vacation or while visiting a boarding facility with an active infestation. Don’t bring any pet bedding into the house unless it’s brand new and tightly sealed in plastic. Even retailers of new products can accidentally give you bed bugs if the problem is bad enough in the warehouse.

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