Are you waking up in the night with an itch? Perhaps you’ve noticed some red marks and believe the culprit could be a bed bugs? As a pet owner, your natural assumption could be turn to your poor old dog and accuse him of bringing bed bugs into the house.
But what is the truth about dogs carrying bed bugs on them, or bed bug eggs?
I decided to find out, and I think it might put your mind at rest as far as your canine friend goes.
Can dogs carry bed bugs? It is unlikely that your dog will carry bed bugs on them into the house. It’s also unlikely that your dog will carry bed buys into your home either. Bed bugs prefer to feed off humans. The fur on animals is a deterrent.
Not only that, but bed bugs won’t live on your dog because bed bugs do not live on a host. Instead they prefer to hide for most of the day in dark crevices and only feed at night.
However… it is possible that your dog does have bed bugs on their skin after they get up from sleeping. But the bed bugs are more likely to be found in your dog’s bedding and in soft toys than on the dog itself.
Given what we know, the idea that your dog can carry bed bug eggs or bed bugs into your house is very slim and probably not the cause of your itching.
The back story on bed bugs
For centuries, bed bugs had the run of the planet. They multiplied and moved house at will. In the mid-twentieth century, a massive eradication program managed to decimate their numbers.
Pest control programs in major institutions have largely kept them under control.
The sad truth is that, like cockroaches, they have survived the purge, and continue to cause problems.
Bed bugs are small oval, reddish brown creatures, about the size of a grain of rice. They are visible to the naked eye but do not expose themselves when there is light.
They do not have wings so need to scurry from place to place. They are flat, with a ridged abdomen, enabling them to withstand the pressure of the weight of a human body lying on them.
They inhabit deep crevices and folds, where they lay their eggs and incubate their larvae. These nurseries can be found in soft furniture like settees or bed, wardrobes, and even skirting or floor boards.
They are probably known as bed bugs because that is where humans encounter them most often.
They venture out at night, between midnight and dawn, when most people are asleep – and when dogs don’t tend to be outside. They only need to feed once a week and can go without food for two months or more. Their preferred meal is human blood.
However, if they have to, they will take the trouble to make their way through the fur of animals, in order to feed. It is not their first choice.
So, yes, you might find bed bugs on your dog, but they are more likely to want to feed on you and your human family!
Thankfully, they are less common than fleas, ticks and mites, and do not live on their hosts – human or animal.
How do you know if you have bed bugs?
Bed bugs bite! But the bites are small and the bugs anaesthetise the area around each bite so that the discomfort from a single bite will be minimal. About fifty percent of victims do not even notice that they have been bitten.
However, an infestation, resulting in multiple bites, will cause itchiness and something akin to a rash or small blisters. This may also cause an allergic reaction which can be treated with antihistamines.
Your dog is the meal of last resort. Only if there are not enough human hosts or the infestation is full blown, will bed bugs target your furry friends.
If your dog is being bitten, there will be excessive scratching due to the itchiness. If the situation is dire and untreated, the dog may suffer hair loss and bald patches.
Because bed bugs are visible, they may be detected if you suddenly shine a light on a suspected area during their hours of operation, i.e. 12 midnight through to 5 in the morning.
They also leave tiny poop residues which look like dark brown rust spots or ink stains on the bedding and mattresses. They could also leave bits of exoskeleton and fragments of eggs lying about. These are more difficult to spot.
If there are large numbers of bed bugs, they will emit a sweet, musty odour.
How do bed bugs get into your home?
If it’s rare for dogs to carry bed bugs into your house, then how do they get in?
Well, bed bugs are more likely to be found in institutions where there is a measure of passing traffic, such as hospitals, hotels, hostels, theatres, libraries and even retail stores.
They are hitchhikers. They hide in clothes, luggage and bedding and are then transported from one location to another. If ever there was a reason, not to pilfer hotel towels, this is it!
Bed bugs may also enter a home through the purchase of second-hand furniture. As stated previously, this does not have to be a bed or settee. It can be a storage unit or wardrobe. Always inspect your furniture purchases thoroughly before bringing them home.
Preventing bed bugs from entering your home
Just writing about bed bugs makes my skin crawl. You do not want them in your home. They will waste no time colonising it!
There are several precautions you can take when staying overnight in a bed that is not your own:
- Do a spot check for the signs of bed bugs in the room (see above).
- Do not place your luggage on the bed.
- Use a hairdryer to heat up the bed and dry out the sheets, if necessary.
- Check your luggage before you leave for stray bugs.
- When you return home, immediately wash your clothes on a hot cycle and use a dryer if you have one. The same applies to children’s soft toys.
If you are traveling with your dog:
- Keep the dog bedding and dog carrier away from the bed and other bedroom furniture
- If possible, let your dog sleep in the bathroom.
- Wash the dog bedding on your return home.
Preventing an infestation from taking hold
The following are good preventative measures to take, regardless of whether or not you suspect the presence of bed bugs or other pests.
- Inspect crevices in furniture, and skirting and floor boards regularly for tell-tale signs of breeding colonies.
- Clean and launder your bedding often.
- Turn your mattress regularly, possibly on a monthly basis.
- Vacuum the mattress and base unit as often as you turn the bed.
- Hot and / or dry air destroys the eggs so if possible use a steamer on the bed and suspected hiding places.
- If you regularly have guests, consider using seamless mattress and pillow protectors on your guest room beds, that do not allow any place for the critters to hide.
- Regularly launder your dog bedding and children’s soft toys, preferably by washing them in a hot cycle and using a tumble dryer.
- Regularly declutter – bed bugs thrive in areas that are undisturbed for long periods of time.
Natural bed bug deterrents
There are several natural remedies that help to keep bed bugs, and other pests, at bay.
Bed bugs and many other household pests, including mice, do not enjoy the fragrances of lavender, rosemary, mint and eucalyptus. Lemongrass and cloves go further and cause the bed bugs harm by attacking them systemically.
After a period of time, these need to be vacuumed and reapplied. The fragrances can also be used in the form of essential oils.
Drying agents such as baking soda, silica gel and borax will cause the creatures discomfort. They also carry the substances back to their nests and cause their eggs to dry out. Baking soda needs to be vacuumed up on a regular basis and reapplied if there is a potential problem. It is not advisable to remove silica gel from its packaging if there is a likelihood that children or pets can ingest it.
Diatomaceous earth, in a coarse form, feels like glass to the bed bugs, preventing them from entering the area. It should be sprinkled around hotspots or bed bug thoroughfares.
You cannot say conclusively that a dog won’t bring bed bugs into your home, or the eggs. But given how bed bugs live and behave, your dog is probably not the culprit.
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