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How Bed Bugs Can Affect Your Pets

Monday, December 19, 2011

Remember that cutesy little rhyme you used to hear before you went to bed, prodding you to “not let the bed bugs bite”? For many people, unfortunately, bed bugs are a reality, affecting not only their homes and loved ones but their pets as well. Since your pets, especially cats and dogs, are probably warm-blooded mammals just like you, they are bound to attract insects such as bed bugs. And while a bed bug will prefer to feed on you, they will happily bite your pets if they get a chance. Here are a few ways that your pets might be affected by the nasty little buggers.

Bed bugs can affect your pets, too!
Your cat or dog probably has a preferred sleeping area that may contain a bed, pillow, or blanket. These are havens for bed bugs, who build their communities where we like to sleep. (It is important to keep in mind that bed bugs, unlike fleas or ticks, don’t actually live on their victims. They live in the environments where their victims reside, though they can easily be transported on clothing, in bags, or on bed-wear as it is carried from place to place. They can also be carried to different locations by riding along in your pet’s fur.)

You might not be able to see the bite marks on your pet if they have been attacked by bed bugs, especially on cats or dogs with long hair, but since the bites usually itch, you should watch to see if your pet is scratching more than usual. Bed bugs are often mistaken for fleas. They can be identified by their wingless reddish-brown bodies that are flat and about one-fifth of an inch long. Though the bites may be difficult to find, you can check to see if they exist on particularly sensitive areas of your pet, such as their stomach.

Once you have identified the problem, you can rid yourself of the infestation by washing and drying anything that your pet has come into contact with, particularly their toys or their bedding. Bed bugs will die when exposed to heat above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure to dry whatever you wash on high heat. Flea and tick baths will not affect bed bug populations, so if you’re going to bathe them, use insect control shampoos that are pyrethrin-based. Be aware that these products may be harmful to cats.

Continue to practice bed bug control even after you believe that you have successfully destroyed the infestation. Even if you see improvement in your pets or in the rest of your home, remember that bed bugs are persistent, and colonies may regenerate if you aren’t careful. Continue to wash and maintain your pet’s living area with extra attention, and routinely vacuum areas frequented by your pet. Look for bed bug signs, such as blood on light-colored areas (like sheets, blankets, or the wall), or little brown specks that are actually bed bug fecal material. Keep an eye out for a bed bug resurgence and your pets (and you will) will sleep more tightly in the future.

Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California

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