Can dogs carry bed bugs?
Whether you’ve ever had to deal with bed bugs yourself or not, you’ve probably heard the horror stories from people who have. Bed bugs are notoriously hard to get rid of, with extreme sanitization or pest control necessary to fight the infestation. Many people have had to toss mattresses, furniture, carpeting, clothing, and anything else bed bugs like to live in to truly eliminate these pesky insects from their home.
The best thing you can do is make sure they never make it into your house in the first place. Some common ways to get bed bugs include taking in second hand furniture, bringing them home in your luggage after picking them up on a trip, and even getting them at the movie theater. Apartments can also get infested from their neighbors when the bed bugs spread from one apartment to another.
But what about your dog – can dogs carry bed bugs? Do bed bugs live on dogs, and can you get a bed bug infestation from your dog? Here’s what you need to know.
Can bed bugs live on dogs?
The good news is that bed bugs do not live on dogs. The bad news is that dogs can carry them into the home.
It’s extremely unlikely your dog will pick up a bed bug going on their usual walk outside. While bed bugs can live outside, it’s usually only for a short time, as their typical habitat is indoors. It’s more likely your dog could pick up a bed bug (or two or ten) after spending time in a home or other location that’s already infested – but even this is pretty rare.
Can bed bugs live in dog beds?
The reason bed bugs like to live in beds is because their primary energy source is blood and they come out at night to feed. Living in your mattress means they’re always close to their next meal – you. It seems they prefer human blood but can and do feed on dog blood, too. For that reason, bed bugs can live in dog beds, if it’s closest to the most reliable food source for them.
Do you think there are bed bugs living in your dog’s bed? Look for red or brown colored spots on the bed which are a hallmark of bed bugs; this occurs when the bed bug has been crushed and the blood they recently ate leaves a stain. Also look for tiny white spots that resemble grains of rice, which could be bed bug larvae, and clusters of tiny, dark spots, which could be bed bug fecal matter. (Yes, it is disgusting.)
And if you think there are bed bugs on your dog’s bed, you may want to toss it entirely if the infestation is bad, or you might be fine by washing the cover and drying it on high heat. (Looking for a dog bed with a washable cover? Most of Snoozer’s dog beds come with a removeable, replaceable, and machine washable cover!)*
How to check dogs for bed bugs?
First, know what they look like. Do an internet search so you know what to look for. An adult bed bug that’s just eaten is easiest to see, as it’s around the size of an apple seed and red or brown in color. But very young bed bugs are difficult to spot, making it challenging to identify them. Plus, no matter how big they are, they can be hard to see in your dog’s fur, especially if your dog has a dark coat.
Even though it’s not common for dogs to carry bed bugs, you may want to examine your dog if they’ve spent time in a place you think is infested, just to be safe, by looking carefully through their fur with a bright light.
Beyond looking for bed bugs themselves, you can also look for evidence of them. Check your dog’s skin for areas that are red and swollen with a dark spot in the middle, since this is what bed bug bites look like. It’s common for bed bug bites to appear in a straight line or in a cluster, too. Also, bed bug bites are itchy, so if your dog has been bitten they’ll likely scratch a lot, and they could end up losing fur in that area, too.
Important to know: bed bugs are gross and their bites can itch, but they aren’t known for passing on infectious diseases the way that ticks and fleas can.
How to get rid of bed bugs on your dog?
As stated above, bed bugs don’t live on dogs; at most, they may “hitch a ride” from one location to another and if they make it home, they’ll come out at night to feed.
They’re more likely to live on soft objects that are in close proximity to your dog. To keep your dog from being bitten, sterilize or replace their dog bed and cover, collars, leashes, soft toys, and so on. Again, high heat is an easy and effective way to kill bed bugs, so toss anything in the dryer on high for 30 minutes if you think there’s a chance that bed bugs (or their larvae) live on it.
Keeping your dog – and your home – safe and bug-free
While it is possible for your dog to carry bed bugs into your home, it’s not a common occurrence, so don’t lose sleep over it. Just keep an eye out for the signs that your dog has been bitten or that their dog bed has bed bugs. If your dog seems to be suffering from the itchiness of the bites, talk to your vet about medication to relieve the discomfort.
And if you do find bed bugs on the dog bed, then you almost certainly have a big infestation in other parts of the house. Check for evidence of bed bugs on the other mattresses in the house. Bed bugs multiply very quickly so you want to take care of the situation before it gets truly out of hand!
Beckley was a racing greyhound until he retired at 2 1/2 years old and was adopted off the track. He's super fast when he wants to be, but he actually prefers to take it easy, napping on the most comfortable bed he can find!