Bed bugs: They’re ba-aack, Pets — Parasites: The Pet Owner s Parasite Resource

Bed bugs: They’re ba-aack!

Contents

Bed bugs seem to be back with a vengeance! Many developed countries, including the U.S., where the bugs seemed for years to have been a thing of the past, are now having to contend with them once more. Although bed bugs have been unwelcome companions of people since ancient times, as their numbers dropped drastically in the 1940s and ‘50s (due in large part to the use of synthetic insecticides such as DDT and improvements in hygiene), so did American’s knowledge and vigilance regarding these pests. This fact, along with increased domestic and international travel, increased insecticide resistance in the bugs, increased transfer/re-use of used furniture, and increased “clutter” and belongings in our homes, have set up a perfect scenario for resurgence of these bugs. Once in our homes, these pests are hard and expensive to control and eradicate. Thus, preventing their introduction into your home is increasingly important.

So, what exactly are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are insects in the family Cimicidae. Two species are associated with humans (others are parasites of birds, bats and other mammals): Cimex lectularius is present worldwide, while Cimex hemipterus is a tropical bug. These are small (1-7 mm) brownish-red, flattened, wingless, blood-feeding insects; adults are about the size of a grain of rice. They have 6 legs and 2 long antennae made up of 4 segments. Bed bugs, as the name implies, are present mainly in areas where people and animals sleep. They are active at night (peak activity is usually between midnight and 6 am) when they feed on sleeping people and animals. Females lay eggs in cracks and crevices (e.g. head boards, box springs, bed frames, mattress seams, furniture joints, baseboard cracks, etc.), places where bed bugs routinely hide while not feeding. These eggs hatch into nymphs, which are miniature replicas of the adults. After 5 generations of nymphs, adults develop. Adults then mate and produce more eggs. All stages of bed bugs (excluding eggs, of course), feed on blood typically every 8-10 days, but they can go months without a meal.

Why are bed bugs important?

As mentioned above, these bugs must feed on blood, and will feed on humans as well as cats and dogs. Fortunately, bed bugs have not been shown to transmit any diseases; however, their bites can cause anemia (especially in children), pruritus (itchiness), allergic reactions, discomfort, sleeplessness, and stress. In addition, they can be very hard to control or eradicate (especially in multi-family homes and buildings), leading sometimes to great monetary expense. In addition, because bed bug infestations may require at least some insecticide use, their presence increases exposure of people and animals to pesticides; it is of utmost importance that these chemicals, if used, be used only as specified on their labels to reduce the risk of health problems from these potentially toxic compounds.

How do bed bugs get into a home or building?

Bed bugs are great hitch-hikers and expert hiders. Due to their small size, they can hide away and be transported into a home through “passive transport”, that is: they simply hitch a ride in furniture seams, mattress folds, seams in luggage, folded clothes, bedding, etc. In multi-family or multi-occupancy homes and buildings (e.g. apartment buildings, hotels, shelters, rooming houses, cruise ships) bed bugs can also move actively between rooms (i.e. they can literally walk from one room to another). Bed bugs are closely associated with people and our belongings. Although bugs can sometimes be found on cats and dogs, this situation is unusual; it is not likely that cats and dogs will introduce a bed bug infestation into a home because any bugs that crawled onto them to feed during the night generally would have gone into hiding during the day. So, it is more likely the bugs are stowed away in your luggage than on your cat or dog (or on you, for that matter).

Will bed bugs bite cats and dogs?

Yes, in addition to biting and feeding on people, bedbugs are known to feed on cats and dogs in infested homes.
How do you know if you have an infestation?
There are several clues or signs that can help identify infestations. In rare reports, people have observed bed bugs crawling on themselves, or their pets. However, as mentioned above, this is unusual. More likely, are the telltale signs of small insect bites anywhere on the body; these may resemble those of other biting insects (mosquitos or fleas), so it is important to look for other signs. Like other insects, bed bugs must shed their exoskeletons in order to grow, so finding these “molts” can help identify an infestation, as well as finding actual bed bugs in the folds of the mattress or trapped in the sheets. In addition, bed bug feces may leave rusty spots on bedding or nearby furniture and bugs are said to give a sweet, musty odor to areas in which they are present. Additionally, a number of commercial bed bug traps and monitors are now available, and bed bug detecting dogs can sniff out infestations.

What can you do if you believe you have bedbugs in your home?

If you believe there are already bedbugs in your home, try to collect a sample for an expert to identify, and contact your landlord or a pest control company that has experience with bed bug control. Controlling and eradicating bed bugs is a process that will take time and patience. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, have put together a joint statement on bedbug control, which includes non-chemical as well as chemical measures for control — statement . Frequent vacuuming and laundering (including drying in high heat), reduction of clutter, and sealing cracks and crevices can help reduce the number of bugs. Use of diatomaceous earth may also be helpful in this regard. If the infestation is not heavy, these measures alone could eventually eradicate the infestation. However, in certain situations, use of effective and approved pesticides by professionals may be needed. Remember, if a product does not have a U.S. EPA registration number, it has not been reviewed by the EPA and its safety and efficacy against bed bugs is not known. In addition, any pesticide to be used against bed bugs should have these bugs explicitly listed on the label, otherwise it is unknown if the product would be of any use against them.

Can pet anti-tick and anti-flea products keep bed bugs away?

Anti-tick and anti-flea pet products are just that: tick and flea products. They were not developed to protect pets against bed bugs and would be expected to have little or no effect on an infestation.

See also:  Bed Bugs, Informational Guide to Bed Bugs, Purdue, Monitoring, Control, Treatment, IPM, Prevention, Biology, Health Issues

How can I protect my pets from a bed bug infestation?

Bed bugs do not live on animals the way fleas do. They are hidden in the environment and come out only at night to feed. Thus, it is unusual for pets to carry bugs on them. Protecting pets from bed bugs is achieved by default as you protect yourself and your home from bed bugs: through vigilance and hygiene. If you already have an infestation at home, eradicating that infestation will keep your entire family (including your pets) protected from the nuisance of bed bugs. When travelling (with or without your pet), check areas around the bed (head board and box spring, especially) for bed bugs or signs of bed bug infestation. Remember that these bugs are visible to the naked eye, although they are small. Keep luggage, pet crates and pet bedding away from the bed, if possible (consider storing them in the bathroom or a space away from sleeping areas and couches). When leaving your hotel, inspect all luggage, pet crates and pet bedding carefully to try to ensure no hidden bugs will be travelling home with you. Consider having your pet bathed and groomed before bringing them home (this may remove any bugs from the animal if they happen to be present), and visually inspect your pet for bed bugs. Luggage, pet carriers, and bedding can be left in the car for about 1-2 weeks after you return home. In areas of the country with extreme weather (hot and cold) this can further reduce the number of live bed bugs by heat-killing or freezing them. When you do bring these belongings into your home, launder everything immediately (clothing, pet bedding, etc.) being sure to use hot water and/or the dryer on medium-high heat; washing alone will not kill bed bugs, but high-heat drying will. There is no fail-safe way to ensure that you, your belongings or your pet will not bring unwanted guests home, but these measures can help reduce the risk.

By Araceli Lucio-Forster, PhD.
Teaching Support Specialist, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

www.petsandparasites.org

Bed Bugs And Your Cat: What You Need To Know

Bed bugs are a nuisance and more people are discovering the sad fact that a bed bug infestation has nothing to do with hygiene. Even the cleanest and swankiest hotels and homes could still get them. If you have a cat or several cats for that matter, then you may be wondering if bed bugs can harm them. You also may be wondering if it safe to use regular pest control service for your home with your cats around. Today, I am going to answer all these questions.

Bed bugs on cats pictures

It is difficult to find bed bugs on cats’ pictures because bed bugs are sneaky creatures. They usually come out at night to feed on the hosts. In absence of human hosts, they could feed on your cats or dogs. However, most bed bugs prefer human blood for their blood meals. Here are a few bed bug bites on cats pictures as well as cats chasing bugs images.

Bed bugs and cat litter: does cat litter kill bed bugs?

Many cat owners use cat litter to get rid of bed bugs. Cat litter is nothing but silica gel crystals. You can crush the litter into a fine powder and sprinkle it around your bed, furniture, box springs etc. Bed bugs come in contact with the litter and the crystals shred their insides causing bed bugs’ exoskeleton to get ripped off. This kills the bed bugs. Needless to say this is not a surefire method of getting rid of bed bugs because:

  • You will need to use a lot of litter to get rid of all bed bugs.
  • The bugs need to come in direct contact with the cat litter powder for this remedy to work.
  • Cat litter can be harmful to human lungs so you certainly do not want to use this method of getting rid of bed bugs in your bedroom.

Is there a bed bug shampoo for cat?

There is no specific bed bug shampoo for cats. You can use a vet approved tick and flea shampoo which works on most pests that harm cats. Talk to your vet about the right cleansing product for felines. Never ever use a dog shampoo on cats and vice a versa as this can harm your pets. Also be wary of so called herbal products which promise gentle and effective treatment; many herbs and essential oils are known to be very dangerous, even fatal for cats.

The good news is that cats with thick furs generally won’t have bed bugs on them. This is because; bed bugs prefer dark, cool areas to hide in. If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors in the sun, bed bugs won’t live on the cat per se. However, if your cat is waking up with bite marks all over its body, you might want to check for bed bugs, fleas, ticks, lice or mites etc. Many pests can cause feline itchiness. So do use the right medication to keep these pests off your cat. A spot treatment once a month can protect your cat from most common feline pests including fleas and ticks. You can also use tick collars which prevent bugs from biting your pet.

Do cats eat bed bugs?

Dogs are trained to sniff out bed bugs but you cannot expect your cats to do the same. Sure your kitty might like chasing laser dots or lights but that does not mean that she/he will chase bed bugs and help you save money on expensive extermination treatments. Cats do not eat bed bugs. Any one telling you otherwise may simply be pulling your leg!

Bed bugs live in pillows and yes you can put dryer sheets in them

I had recently covered the topic of whether dryer sheets can kill bed bugs hiding inside pillow covers. Sure you can place as many dryer sheets as you’d like inside pillow cases but these will not kill bed bugs. At the most, they will make your bedroom smell nice and fresh. There is one line of thought that dryer sheets and fabric softeners can repel bed bugs and help you prevent bed bug bites. The only scientific explanation for this may be that the strong fragrance might deter the bugs for a while but overtime you might still receive bites on your legs and feet. Also you will need to replace the dryer sheets every now and then. That said; this is still not a foolproof method of repelling bed bugs or ensuring they do not bite you and your cat.

Where do bed bugs bite mostly?

Bedbugs usually bite humans on the torso, hands, legs, feet back and exposed areas of the body. In absence of human hosts, bed bugs could bite cats and dogs. Cats may receive bites on the tummy area or on the back where it is difficult for them to drive the bed bugs away. If you cat is seeming distressed, do check her out for signs of bug infestation.

Bed bugs treatment when you have cats

If you are getting your home professionally treated for bed bugs, you must remove your cats to safety. Talk to your pest control company about the chemicals they plan on using and whether these are EPA approved and safe around cats. Do find out how soon after the treatment can you bring back your pets indoors. This is the best and safest way to treat your home for bed bugs when you have cats or dogs.

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Got bed bugs? Here are 10 products that can help you get rid of and prevent them.

www.bedbugsbites.net

Bed Bugs and Pets: Answers to Your Questions

Melody is a volunteer for the Center for Disease and Control Prevention. She enjoys sharing her personal experience with others.

Can Bed Bugs Travel on Pets?

The simple answer is yes. Cats and dogs can get bed bugs on them. However, they will not become infested with them. Bed bugs don’t live on pets, although they might hitch a ride or, on rare occasions, have a nibble.

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Global diversification increases distribution of many types of microorganisms and pests. Bed bugs have officially gained the title Ultimate Hitchhiker. Animals can carry bed bugs as easy as any other pest; it just happens less often. Bed bugs are less likely to travel on a pet than they are a human. If your pet has been treated with flea and tick neck drops, then they likely won’t get bed bugs on them at all.

Will They Bite My Cat or Dog?

Bed bugs will attack your pet, but only if they have got a long, long time without a human blood meal. Pet blood does not meet their nutritional requirements the way human blood does.

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are a member of the genus Cimex. Every insect in this genus is a bloodsucker of one form or another. For example, one variety, called «bat bugs,» feeds on bats. The type that infests most homes these days are of the genus Cimex lectularius, and they love human blood.

Do They Prefer Humans or Pets?

Many people feel confusion because bed bugs are known to dislike hair and fur and that they prefer a human host. It is true that they prefer humans and dislike fur. It is also true that they will take what they can get when they can get it. The scientific fact is that bed bugs can feed on any warm-blooded animal, so they are not going to let themselves starve just because they dislike fur.

In almost all cases, except a rare few, you are going to get bitten before your cat does. Bed bugs are the hungry wolf, and you are the grandma. They will not eat Little Red Riding Hood (your cat) until after they eat grandma (you).

Reasons a Bed Bug Bites a Furry Pet

Since bed bugs don’t like pet fur or blood, there is usually an underlying reason why bed bugs target them. The main reason a cat or dog may be bitten by a bed bug is that failed extermination measures upset the bed bugs’ natural feeding patterns.

When you exterminate, these insects look for areas that have not been treated. If you are unsuccessful in your extermination attempts, the bugs will climb into dressers and on top of curtains to find a safe place to hide until their next meal. They may even target a pet’s bed while looking for a meal.

Reasons bed bugs bite pets:

  • The bug has extreme hunger.
  • The bug is unable to reach human-occupied areas.
  • The pet transferred the bug from an infested chair or couch.
  • The pet sleeps in an infested area.
  • The pet sleeps in bed with its owner.
  • An older animal who experiences difficulty moving may struggle to defend itself.

How to Stop Bed Bugs From Biting Pets

Misconceptions to Dispel

Pets Can’t Spread Bed Bugs Around the House

False. Pets can carry bed bugs around on them. Bed bugs do not physically attach themselves to cats and dogs like ticks do, but they can take a ride and are willing to travel for their meal. If they are hungry and cannot find a human, they will find a pet, such as your beloved cat. If your cat gets up and moves, the insects will not leap off your pet because they cannot jump or fly.

They Only Eat at Night

This is false! Bed bugs do prefer to feast at night, however, if there are no nighttime meals available, then they will attack during the day. If you were hungry and could not find food, would you just go to sleep and say, «Oh well!» just because you prefer to feed during the day? Would you give up a meal just because your favorite dish isn’t on the menu? No! You would find food whatever it takes. So, even though they will attack mostly at night, if hungry during the day, they will bite your cat or dog. They will also search for heat and CO2, and your pets have both!

Your Pet Can Detect Them Right Away

False. The bugs will sit there and munch on your pet, but your pet probably won’t know because the bites are painless. The bite begins to itch much later and your cat or dog will begin scratching like crazy. This leads to irritation, hair loss, and infection.

Pets and Bed Bug Dangers

Can They Make Cats, Dogs, or Small Rodents Sick?

Yes, they can indirectly make your cats sick. Bed bugs do not transmit pathogens to cats or humans, but cats are prone to developing a severe itch from a bite. Trying to keep a cat from scratching is futile, and because it is likely to scratch more intensely than a human, the cat can easily suffer from a skin infection that may make it very sick.

Do not bother trying to give your cat a bath. Aside from getting scratched head to toe and being subjected to your cat’s evil eye gaze, it is only going to make matters worse. If your cat is attacked and begins to scratch excessively, call a vet.

Consulting a Vet

The two main things your vet can do are:

  1. Prescribe or recommend something to stop the itching.
  2. Prescribe antibiotics to ward off infections.

One great product that you can use on your pet is Dermal-Sooth Anti-Itch Spray. I personally asked my vet about the best over-the-counter itch treatment for pets, something that would specifically work for bed bug bites. She recommended Dermal-Sooth because it numbs the skin while hydrating it.

Many competitors’ anti-itch spray only contain numbing agents, which dry the skin and can actually cause more itching! The hydrating action in Dermal-Sooth helps create a more long-lasting itch relief. You can pick up the treatment for $10–$18, depending on the size of bottle you buy.

Getting Treatment

Once you have your pet protected, it is time to address the itching. Forums around the web are filled with, “My vet said this…” and “My vet said that…” Not only is this secondhand knowledge that could be incorrect, but it also seems like everyone’s vet is saying something different. To investigate this further, I called ten local vets and asked them each the same series of questions about bed bugs:

  • Some of them swore bed bugs do not attack cats.
  • Others said they do attack cats, but that there is nothing to worry about.
  • Some said the cat would need medication.

Bed bugs are a relatively new problem, and because they have been dormant for so long, they are not usually included in the curriculum at vet school. Each vet is left to do their own research, and they all seem to have sources that say different things.

Is Your Cat Scratching?

If your cat is not scratching, then do not worry about it. However, if it is scratching, then you want to see a vet. You do not have to tell your vet about bed bugs as long as your pet gets the care it needs. If the scratching is addressed, and you get antibiotics to prevent infection, then these treatments alone will suffice. But, it is probably best to tell the vet the truth because many vets seem happy to give a million other excuses for the itching, such as an allergic reaction to food or fleas.

Flea and Tick Medications and Diatomaceous Earth

From my own experience, flea and tick medications do not solve the problem. However, using the liquid flea and tick medication Revolution will help a little bit. Some people say to use diatomaceous earth on cats. It is an old-school flea remedy that works on bed bugs, too. Personally, I do not recommend using diatomaceous earth on your pet. Many people report that diatomaceous earth can cause further skin irritation and dryness. While it is a safe product, if you or your cat breathe it in, it can cause respiratory problems.

More Ideas for Prevention

Deterrent Kitty Litter

Silica kitty litter can help keep your pet bed bug-free.This type of litter contains less silica than diatomaceous earth (a popular bed bug killer), but it contains enough to deter bed bugs.

The best silica cat litter is Clear Choice Silica Crystal. This brand usually costs between $12 and $15 a bottle. The reason this is the best is because it only needs to be changed once a month for one cat, and twice a month for two. It absorbs odor well and kicks up only enough crystal to deter bed bugs without irritating your cat. Other brands kick up almost no crystals. Normally that is good, but not for our purposes.

Protective Pet Bed Covers

Bed bugs are not likely to attack your cat unless they are taking extreme measures. You can also take extreme measures to protect your cat. A clever lady named Clara Miller designed a special pet bed that is like a mattress cover.

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The Dog Bed Brotector Cover with zipper may not have the trendiest name, but the inside of the cover is treated with an all-natural pesticide. It permeates through the material to deter bed bugs, but keeps a pet safe. While this is designed for dogs, I have seen it work quite well for cats as well.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

I use Neurontin for my cat and myself for pain but I noticed it stopped the bed bugs from biting us as well? Does it? Or is it doing more harm cause of the side affects sleeping?

I have researched this topic for you. There is no known evidence that Neurontin stops bed bugs from biting you. According to Drugs.com it is used for conditions such as shingles and herpes. Let your doctor and vet know about what you have noticed. There is a small chance that, while it does’t keep bugs from biting you, it soothes some of the symptoms of the bite.

I think something is eating away at the side of my dogs face. He’s got a bald spot and he’s bleeding and it seems to be going septic with like a green pus coming from the area. Any ideas if my dog’s condition could be caused by bed bugs?

It is doubtful that this was caused by a bed bug, however it does sound like the dog has an infection. I would take the dog to the vet right away, as this may be a more serious issues.

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Comments

Melody Collins

2 months ago from United States

I am very sorry for your loss. Most vets do say it is unlikely for bed bugs to cause the death of a pet. However, when you talk about anemia then there are other vets who might call it a slim possibility. If the pet was already anemic, getting bit by bed bugs doesn’t help. There are lots of things that can cause anemia, and since a second pet is affected, there is reason to pause. An already anemic cat bitten by bed bugs would become even more anemic. But, there is likely another cause. At this point you will need to do lots of research about what causes anemia in cats, and see if anything else in your home might be causing health problems for animals.

Cassie Anders

We have been battling bed bugs on and off for several years. I get rid of them, then my brother in law brings them back, that’s a long angry rant for another time. Last year my family had to say good bye to our beautiful, 3 year old kitty, Amara. She was very anemic and two different vets couldn’t figure out why. After 3 months there was nothing we could do to save her. I asked if bed bugs could be the cause, since this was one of our battle times. I was told it was, «unlikely.»

We now have an 11 month old, 64 lbs, pup, Ziva. We are battling again and I noticed bites all over her tummy yesterday. Covering about 70% of it. So I started researching again (for the millionth time), about bed bugs and animals. Before, everything I found said they don’t generally bite animals, now I’m reading that they can, they’re just not the first choice.

My Amara was only 7 lbs full grown, and loved to sleep INSIDE of our couch. Is it possible her death could be related to the bugs?

Melody Collins

8 months ago from United States

Paula, I am sorry to hear about Sadie’s rash. You’re right, dogs and cats can get bedbug rashes too. Like humans, pets may or may not experience a reaction, but when they do, it’s not pleasant. You are doing a good job taking care of Sadie and her bedding. Have you had your home exterminated? Bedbugs spread. If thy are on your pet, then they are probably in other places. They need to be exterminated from the whole house.

Paula chesser

Sadie has a horrible rash and iitching is unbelieveable.. And than i spottef a bed bug. its just awful what bed bug bites do to humans and im sure pets r the same. What do i do other than vaccum cleab wash bedding keep vlose eye on furniture ..i seem not to get rid of them. and my pet has a rash or u rhought it was but its bites can j use a. Lotion called derma on my pet and can i use vic vapor rub..to cool her skin do maybe she wont itch like crazy

April

My cat got bite under his tail next to his hole. It is lightly bleeding.

PC

Several years ago at the hospital where I worked I came in contact with a patient with severe bedbug infestation that also brought them with him. I believe I brought them home me and just saw them occasionally but now am getting bitten a lot. I have tried DE, Fabriclear, Raid, baby powder. I put rubbing alcohol on me every night now which has seemed to cut down on bites. I have two cats and think they bite them. I have tore my bedroom apart several times and used things to kill them but see them crawling on walls sometimes. I stay so stressed out and don’t want anyone to come visit me.

mich

This is the most useful information I have found about bedbugs and cats so far Thank you

Elah

Rubbing alcohol kills them and probably wouldn’t ruin the fabric a cat bed is made of. If it’s not a huge thick one with stuffing, you could just saturate it.

klurbauer

7 years ago from Brink of Insanity 😉

Wow, this kind of creeps me out a bit. I’d never thought about cats carrying bed bugs around. We have two of them and they like to «visit» other neighbors sometimes. now I’m feeling a little nervous. and itchy. Good hub with great information. Thanks!

Judy Specht

7 years ago from California

I saw bedbug spray for cats at the pet store this afternoon. I would have never noticed it without your hub.

moonlake

7 years ago from America

I did not know bed bugs could get on cats. I think if their on your cats bed I would throw it away and get a new one. I never like to spray anything around my cats. Lots of good information. Voted Up.

Judy Specht

7 years ago from California

I am so impressed with how thoroughly you researched this topic. I read with my mouth hanging open, amazed that you have written so many entertaining hubs on bedbugs.

Marie Hurt

7 years ago from New Orleans, LA

Got information about how to take care of your cat if you have bed bugs. I agree with you about not using sprays where your cat hangs out because of the way they are always licking everything

Dianna Mendez

Your last cat photo shows a very beautiful creature. The color on the cat is such a great shade of browns. Thanks for the information on the hub. Good to know that cats are not as likeable to the bugs.

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