Can Bed Bugs Live on Dogs?

Can my dog get bed bugs?

Nothing makes you gross out and shiver more than the thought of an insect infestation in your home. And well, when you share your home with dogs and cats, you open yourself up to insect pests. But, with the right tips and knowledge, you can keep your home and your dog free from a bed bug infestation.

Bed bugs have been annoying humans for centuries. Aristotle wrote about them, and they are mentioned in some Greek writings from as early as 400 B.C. (wikipedia). Before the invention of indoor heat, bed bugs had a tough time surviving winters.

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washing a dog with insect shampoo

Their annoyances may rise and fall, but they’ve been around forever.

What are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are an annoying insect that feeds on human blood. And, they can go as long as two months between feeding, meaning that it’s not always to easy to get rid of them.

They are called bed bugs for many reasons. One is that they are attracted to humans, and to the dark. So it makes sense that they would try to get you at night, when you’re in bed, rather than during the day. During the day, they go to hiding places like your bed, box spring or a dog’s bedding.

CDC research has shown that bed bugs tend to live within 8 feet of where they feed. So, if they’re feeding off of you, they’re likely living in your bed.

Contrary to popular beliefs and stigmas, whether or not a household has bed bugs is not indicative of their cleanliness. Cleanliness has little to do with it, it has more to do with high density living. This is why bed bugs are more common in hotels, dorms, cruise ships and apartment buildings than other dwellings.

Bedbugs have been on the increase since the 1990s. While not entirely clear, many believe this is due to increased travel by humans and reusing and repurposing furniture.

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How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal.

The CDC reports that bed bugs are “usually transported from place to place as people travel.”

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten.

Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite.

The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems like tiny red bumps that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten.

Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites are generally nothing more than a nuisance. Much like a mosquito bite, you will experience itching and irritation.

But, if the site is scratched open, bacteria can be introduced, leading to more problems. If a person has a specific sensitivity to bed bugs, they may have a stronger reaction. Like anything else, visit your family doctor if you have concerns.

In rare cases they can cause a serious condition or allergic reaction.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping.

However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area.

These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets or box spring
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture
  • a sweet musty odor

Can bed bugs live on dogs?

So here’s the thing. Bed bugs don’t really “live” on any of their dinners. Yes, they will feed on both human and canine blood, but they are not like ticks where they take up residence there.

Any pet can attract bugs, depending on where they live and how many bugs are around.

But, bed bugs actually prefer human blood to dog blood. If given the choice, they will choose you for their feast instead of your pet.

Can Dogs Carry Bed Bugs From One House To Another?

Bedbugs can stay on a dog, but it is unlikely that the bug will make its way to your dog from your home.

Again, bed bugs tend to rest and hide during the day. And, that is when most humans and dogs are moving around so it is unlikely that they will move around with you. This is what makes bed bugs a problem.

Think of the bedbug hiding during the day, sometimes for as much as 60 days at a time. If you move a piece of furniture, a suitcase or luggage, or something similar that contains the bedbug, that is likely how they are being transported.

Bed bugs can and do travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide.

Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

A bedbug could find it’s way to your suitcase while you’re in a hotel room. He rests there for a while, then “wakes up” a few weeks later, while that suitcase is in your closet. This is a much more likely scenario than being transported by a dog.

Moving college kids from house to dorm and dorm to house is much more common than a dog moving them.

If you do happen to find some bedbugs on your dog, then they are likely already inside the house.

The takeaway here is that while it’s possible, it’s really not likely.

Can Dogs Get Bed Bugs?

What to look for in your dog, for signs of bed bugs:

  • Redness and/or itchy skin near their ears, face or legs
  • Flaky lumps on their coat which might look like dandruff
  • Bald patches on the skin
  • An odor similar to rotten meat around the base of the tail
  • Darkened patches caused by shedding (usually near back)

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

Anyone who travels frequently or lives in a high density setting (apartments, dorms) is at a greater risk for bed bugs.

Many dog owners mistakenly thing that if they give flea/tick preventatives, that will prevent bed bugs. That is not necessarily so. Those products are specifically formulated to target specific insect species. And, all insect species can begin to become immune to them.

For example, pyrethrin is not nearly as effect as it was just a few decades ago. Insects evolve just like humans do, and they become resistant to what harms them.

But, you should still give flea and tick preventative for two reasons. One is that it’s just good practice to do so, as fleas and ticks can carry other diseases.

Second, if you see bites on your dog, and you are consistently giving them their monthly meds, then you could be fairly certain that those bites are not flea bites. Your next step should be to inspect yours and your dog’s bedding areas for bed bugs, if you are certain that their bites are not flea bites.

If you do travel, inspect your luggage and your environment, before, during and after travel. Leave suitcases out in a garage for several weeks afterward if you can.

You can also call an exterminator and ask what pet-friendly options they offer to prevent bed bugs.

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