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Can a Dog Get or Carry Bed Bugs?

Picture of a dog in bed

Bed bugs can wreak all kinds of havoc in a home. These insidious little creatures can leave nasty welts on your skin and are known carriers of dirt, debris, and other unpleasant health problems. Though it is well known that bed bugs love to feast on human beings, many owners worry about whether this creepy crawly will also bite their best canine pal. Can a dog get or carry bed bugs? 

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are members of the insect family. There are two unique varieties that affect humans and their pets: the cimex lectularius and the cimex hemipterus.

Though the cimex lectularius is commonly found worldwide, the cimex hemipterus prefers tropical locales.

Regardless of the type of bed bug, their appearance remains the same. They are quite small in size, measuring approximately one to seven millimeters. In color, they are reddish-brown prior to feasting on a host. After eating, they take on a brilliant red hue. Bed bugs require blood meals from a live host to thrive.

Bed bugs are most commonly found in areas where they can most easily access a meal. Since it is harder to bite animals and humans when they are awake, the preferred locale of the bed bug is anywhere people and their pets sleep. Though they remain mostly dormant during the daytime, bed bugs spring into action during the night with their primary hours of activity being from midnight to 6 am. It is during this time that they are able to gather their blood meal from unsuspecting people and their beloved furry friends.

Female bed bugs seek weaknesses in things such as headboards, bedframes, mattresses, etc, where they can lay their eggs. These hidden locales are also where bed bugs take refuge during daylight hours.

Bed bugs are a particularly hardy insect. Though they will enjoy a blood meal as often as every 8-10 days if possible, they can live for months without eating if necessary.

Why Do I Need to be Concerned about Bed Bugs?

Since bed bugs feast on blood, it is a great concern to many people that they may carry harmful bacteria and viruses. Thankfully, research shows that bed bugs are not capable of transmitting disease to humans or their pets. However, it is important to note that bed bug bites are associated with several different health problems in humans, including:

  • Anemia
  • Pruritus (persistent itching)
  • Allergies
  • Discomfort
  • Insomnia
  • Stress

Once a home is infested with bed bugs, it can be very difficult to get rid of the problem. Typically, it is necessary to hire an exterminator, an expense many families can ill-afford.

The most common treatment to eradicate bed bugs involves the use of an insecticide. Many of these products can be harmful to both people and their pets, meaning the family will need to take residence elsewhere during the treatment period to avoid coming in contact with the chemicals.

I’ve Got Bed Bugs! How Did They Get in My House?

Since bed bugs are tiny, they can easily hide on objects that move in and out of a home. Bed bugs are often carried into a residence on such items as used furniture, luggage, clothes, or bedding. In apartment buildings, hotels, or cruise ships, bed bugs can easily travel from room to room, causing an infestation of entire buildings or ships with relative ease. Though most bed bugs travel passively by hiding on objects that are moved to a new locale, they are also quite capable of walking to find a new food source.

Though on occasion, bed bugs will travel into a home on a host such as a dog or cat, this is a relatively rare occurrence. 

Will Bed Bugs Bite My Dog?

Bed bugs aren’t particularly picky when it comes to where to find a meal; however, if given the choice between a dog or its owner, the human will win this contest hands down. Bed bugs are capable of biting any warm blooded animal. Among the types of creatures bed bugs will feed on include: 

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Birds
  • Rodents

Bed bugs do prefer dogs with short hair since it is easier to access their blood meal this way. Perhaps this is why they prefer to feast on owners rather than their dogs if possible.

Can My Dog Carry Bed Bugs?

Since bed bugs prefer a human host, it is of very little concern that dogs will carry bed bugs to and from a home. However, their bedding is a very attractive hiding spot for these wily little critters. To help prevent bed bugs from taking up residence in your dog’s bed or blankets, be sure to keep these items scrupulously clean. It is recommended that all dog bedding be washed at least once a week.

It is important to note that bed bugs do not live on their hosts. They prefer to hide in their chosen locale during the daylight hours and come out to feast on you and/or your dog at night. This makes them different from creatures like fleas that take up permanent residence on their host.

There are several common elements that will attract bed bugs to a dog. These include:

  • The smell of skin
  • A warm environment
  • Carbon dioxide

These are all elements emitted by human beings as well, the bed bug’s preferred food source. 

How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Been Bitten by a Bed Bug?

Bed bug bites are quite easy to identify. If your dog has been the recipient of a bite courtesy of bed bugs, you will notice several small red bumps on your dog’s skin. These bumps are most typically found on the dog’s belly or legs.

Bed bug bites are most often seen in a straight line. Most commonly, the bites are found in groups of two or three. Since many dogs have long hair, some owners don’t discover the bites until their dogs begin to scratch them, leading to the development of a rash or loss of hair. 

How Will I Know if Bed Bugs are Bothering My Dog?

If your dog is scratching a lot more than the occasional itch, bed bugs may be to blame. Dogs that have been bitten by bed bugs exhibit several common symptoms. These include: 

  • Biting
  • Itching
  • Licking
  • Irritability

However, besides seeing actual bites on your dog, there are other cues that can indicate bed bugs have been making a meal out of your dog. If you suspect your dog is suffering from bed bug bites, it is a good idea to thoroughly examine your dog’s bedding. If you discover small dark or reddish spots, this may be blood from your dog’s skin post bite or even the excrement left behind by bed bugs.

Bed bugs also shed their outer casing, and often these clear, hard exoskeletons can be detected around the place your dog chooses to regularly lay. On occasion, you may be able to catch a glimpse of live bed bugs roaming through beds and blankets. They are easy to detect, resembling apple seeds in appearance. Prior to eating, bed bugs are rust-colored, but they intensify in hue to candy apple red after having enjoyed a blood meal.

How Do I Protect My Dogs from Bed Bugs?

As with many common problems involving pets, prevention is the key to keeping bed bugs from harming your dog. Since bed bugs thrive in areas that are cluttered so they can easily hide, keep all mess to a minimum in your home.

Other effective strategies to protect your pet from bed bugs include:

  • Wash all bedding at least once a week
  • Thoroughly check all beds and bedding when staying in a hotel for signs of bed bugs
  • Hire an exterminator if you suspect an infestation

Worried that bed bugs might be bothering your dog? Follow our checklist of things to look for to identify if you may have a bed bug infestation.

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