Bed bugs will feed on many different animals—dogs included. So, let’s say that you moved to a new place and all was fine for a few months. But then, bed bugs seemingly came out of nowhere to your house/apartment. Is it possible that the dog attracted them or physically carried them in?
Bed bugs don’t live in the dog’s fur, but they can feed on them. They act like your bed bugs: they’ll wait somewhere near where their host, the dog, sleeps. They’ll then come out at night. Dogs can attract bed bugs, but as for whether dogs can carry bed bugs, that’s unlikely.
If your bed bug problem seemed to come from nowhere, it’s more likely that a bed bug hitched a ride in your clothes or car, from somebody else’s house, work, or even public transport. But you get rid of them just the same whether they arrived in your clothes or on your dog. To find out how to kill them once and for all, read on.
Table of Contents:
Can Bed Bugs Live on Dogs?
Yes, bed bugs can ‘live on’ dogs—in a way. Bed bugs don’t live on their hosts. They’re ‘ectoparasites,’ which means that they’re external, unlike internal parasites like tapeworms. But in addition to being ectoparasites, they don’t live on the host or in their hair. They can only live near their host, in particular where they sleep.
It works like this: you go to bed at night. The bed bugs come out from underneath your mattress or box spring. They make their way to you and feed. But then when they’re done, they don’t hang around to get to know you. They go back to their harborage, underneath the bed or nearby furniture.
So, why do they not want to live on their host? Because they’re quite delicate after they feed. You could easily squeeze one. So they’ll go back underneath the bed to get away from you, just in case you roll over in the night. The same applies to bed bugs and dogs. There’s a chance that the bed bugs might want to feed on the dog, but they won’t live on them.
Can Bed Bugs Bite Dogs?
According to a metareview in Clinical Microbiology Reviews, yes, bed bugs can bite dogs. They prefer to bite people, of course. But in the absence of a human host, bed bugs will gladly bite a pet. This is the reason why bed bugs can live for a long time in an empty house.
There aren’t any people, but there’s an occasional dog, cat, or rat for bed bugs to feed on. Even just one ‘feed’ is enough to keep a few bed bugs alive, and as we all know, just two or three bed bugs are enough to create a huge infestation in a matter of months.
Bed bugs do only tend to bite exposed skin. That’s why they’re more likely to bite dogs with short hair, or that have hardly any hair in certain places, e.g., their belly. If your dog is covered in fur from top to bottom, then they’ll most likely have hardly any bites. Bed bugs live on blood and nothing else.
Can Dogs Attract Bed Bugs?
Yes, a dog can attract bed bugs, but no more than a person can. Bed bugs are attracted to particular things like the scent of skin, warmth and carbon dioxide. As such, if they were to sense the carbon dioxide the dog was breathing out, then yes, they might be attracted to it.
In terms of attracting bed bugs to start a fresh infestation, then yes, there’s a chance. If you live in an apartment block, sometimes bed bugs are attracted to you from your neighbor’s apartment. They can get to you through cracks in the wall, or just by scuttling across the hall.
If a bed bug were to sense a living, breathing animal in your apartment—whether it’s a dog, a person or something else—then yes, they would be attracted in.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Dog Beds?
Generally speaking, bed bugs like nothing more than a home that’s near a sleeping host. That’s why they’ll live in your bed, either in the mattress, the box spring, or even just the frame.
Dog beds are just as attractive to a bed bug. If you have one with a plastic casing, then they could live underneath it, or between the casing and the cushion. If it’s just a fabric bed, then they could live underneath it, or even inside it. They’ll like it even more if the fabric part of the bed has piping along the edge, which is perfect for them to hide under.
How to keep a dog’s bed free from bed bugs? Easy. Wash it on a high temperature at least once a week. This is best practice anyway so that the bed doesn’t get smelly. It will also kill any other ticks, fleas or mites that the dog might have picked up.
Can Dogs Bring Bed Bugs in from Outside?
No, it’s unlikely that dogs can bring bed bugs in from outside. There are many good reasons for this—so let’s take a look at each of them.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Dog Hair?
No, bed bugs can’t live in dog hair. Bed bugs don’t live in hair or on the skin like fleas, ticks, and lice. This applies to people, dogs, cats, and any other animal. Being on a host or in their hair is the worst for a bed bug, because you’re always moving, and they don’t like that.
They need you to be still so that they can comfortably feed on you without falling off, which is why they wait until you’re asleep. And according to a paper in Biology Letters, body hair helps you feel when there’s a bed bug around, which helps you get rid of them.
Not only that, but bed bugs are entirely the wrong shape to crawl in or live in hair. They’re wide and flat, which means that they’re the wrong shape to crawl through hair. If you think about the kinds of parasites that live in hair, they’re all very small—almost microscopic.
Fleas, lice, and mites are all small enough that they can crawl along the scalp in between hairs, or so that they can cling on to the hair themselves. Bed bugs, though, are about as big as an apple seed and are even bigger after they’ve fed. So if they tried to crawl through a dog’s fur, they wouldn’t be able to, and they’d fall off.
Can Dogs Bring Bed Bugs Inside?
Dogs can bring in ticks, fleas, and worms in from the outside, so it’s natural to assume that they might be able to bring other parasites inside too. But bed bugs are a whole different issue to other parasites. As we’ve explained, they can’t hide in a dog’s fur. But can they somehow hitch a ride on a dog to get inside?
No, they probably can’t. Bed bugs lack the kind of legs and claws they need to grip onto skin, fur or anything else. A louse or a flea can grip hold of a single hair, which is why they’re so difficult to comb out. But a bed bug can’t do that. They can’t grip onto any exposed skin like on your dog’s underside, or anything else like their nose, their ears, and so on.
They also don’t bite so that they can stay in place. Bed bugs only feed when the host is entirely still. They aren’t like ticks which bite and then remain in place, whether the host is moving or not. Bed bugs a) wait until the host is still, and b) only feed for twenty minutes or so anyway.
Finally, bed bugs aren’t outside anyway. They’re solely indoor creatures. They will only live anywhere that’s within a few feet of a host, like you or your dog. Ticks are well known for hiding in long grass until an animal comes by, but despite their passing similarity to bed bugs, they don’t do the same thing.
Can Dogs Catch Bed Bugs from Another Dog?
So, bed bugs can’t cling to a dog. That rules out the idea that dogs can catch bed bugs from one another. The only exception is if you live in an apartment block.
Perhaps one of your neighbors has a bed bug problem that’s exacerbated by their pet dog, which the bed bugs love to feed on. In this unique circumstance, if the bed bugs then come to your house, you could technically say that your dog caught them from another dog.
But as for the dog catching bed bugs like they would catch fleas? No, that’s impossible. Bed bugs don’t hop from person to person, or from animal to animal.
Can Dogs Catch Bed Bugs from Kennels?
Bed bugs love communal places like hotels, hostels, public transport and so on. So it makes sense to think that maybe dogs can catch bed bugs from kennels. Can it happen? It’s unlikely, for the reasons discussed above. But to be clear, there’s no reason to say it could never happen.
While bed bugs can’t live in or crawl through hair, there’s a chance that a dog could catch bed bugs from a kennel in the following ways:
- If the bed bugs hide under the dog’s collar or coat
- If the bed bug gets into your bag, either when you’re dropping off your dog or picking them up
- If the dog picks up bed bugs from the transport taken either to get there, or to get back
So there’s a chance that you could pick up bed bugs in some way from taking your dog to a kennel, even if the dog couldn’t ‘catch’ bed bugs from the other dogs.
Can Dogs Get Bed Bugs from Other People’s Houses?
This is the way that your dog would pick up bed bugs, even if it still isn’t that likely to happen. Bed bug infestations occur either when a pre-existing infestation that you didn’t notice, gets worse, or when bed bugs get from somebody else’s house to your house. This typically occurs because a person brings them to your house, but it’s possible that a dog could too.
There’s a chance that a bed bug could hitch a ride under a dog’s collar or underneath their coat, as unlikely as that is. This could occur when you take your dog to somebody else’s house, or when another dog comes to your house. It’s more likely that somebody else’s dog would bring them to your house, since they spend more time around the bed bugs than your dog would have.
When bed bugs do travel from place to place, they do so by finding a secure hiding place These include places like:
- A discarded piece of clothing, e.g., a scarf on the back seat of your car
- A taxi, bus or car seat upholstery
- A handbag or purse
- The hood of a jacket or coat
They seek out secure places where they’re unlikely to be disturbed. These places have to be dark, and hardly move. A dog’s collar or coat definitely wouldn’t be their preferred medium, but it’s hypothetically possible. That’s the unfortunate thing because it’s difficult to prove things either way.
How to Check Dogs for Bed Bugs
If you think there are bed bugs on your dog, you won’t find them in your dog’s fur. But you can spot the symptoms of bed bug bites. Let’s take a look at what they are, and how to find them.
What Are the Symptoms of Bed Bugs on Dogs?
The symptoms of bed bug bites on dogs are quite similar to the symptoms of bites on people. In no particular order, you might notice:
- Raised pink spots or welts on your dog’s skin
- Your dog continually scratching at different parts of their body, just like when they have fleas
- Signs of acute skin irritation, caused both by the spots and by the dog’s scratching
- Symptoms of allergic dermatitis
Allergic dermatitis is particularly severe. This is an inflammatory, chronic skin condition that’s more often brought on by things like mold spores, dust mites, and other normal allergens. Many symptoms can occur such as swelling, bleeding at scratch sites, and a rash-like appearance to the skin.
When you’re looking for bed bug bites on a dog, it’s unlikely that you’ll find many under areas of thick fur. In particular, look at places like their ear, their belly and any other area that doesn’t have a lot of fur. Bed bugs will gravitate towards these areas, just as they’ll gravitate to parts of your body where you don’t wear bedclothes.
Bed Bugs vs. Fleas vs. Ticks on Dogs
The first big difference between bed bugs, fleas and ticks is their appearance. Bed bugs look like small apple seeds, and have a distinctive pair of antennae pointing out at an angle from their head. They’re a mid-brown color. Proportionally speaking, they have a flat and wide body. Fleas are much smaller, about as big as a speck of dust, but they’re visibly black.
It’s difficult to tell because they’re so small, but they’re the opposite of bed bugs: very thin and quite tall for their size. Ticks look quite similar to bed bugs. The primary differences are that they have more obvious, thicker legs, and a pointed head.
The three animals behave differently, too. Fleas stay in your dog’s fur permanently. You’ll never see them crawling around the floor; first, they don’t like the floor, and secondly they don’t crawl, they hop. Ticks burrow their heads under the skin and stay where they are until they’ve fed—which takes days—at which point they leave.
Bed bugs behave differently. They don’t stay in the dog’s fur, and they don’t burrow their heads under the dog’s skin and stay there for days. They only come out when your dog is sleeping. They feed for twenty minutes or so before heading back to their hiding place. If you think the problem may be bed bugs, wait until your dog is asleep and observe them to see if you see any bed bugs scuttling around.
How Do You Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Your Dog?
The first thing you should do is to make sure that the dog’s bed and the sleeping environment is completely free of bed bugs. If your dog has a dog bed, check underneath and around it to see if you can spot any bed bugs, or the signs of bed bugs.
There are likely to be a few around (if they are feeding on your dog). If your dog sleeps in your room with you, then there may not be any around the particular area they sleep, because they go from their normal harborage (under your bed).
In terms of getting rid of them, you have to get rid of every single one—not just most of them. Otherwise, they’ll come back with a vengeance. Use the following techniques to get rid of bed bugs:
- No matter what you do, start by vacuum cleaning. Vacuuming gets rid of the dust, dirt, and grime that bed bugs love. It also sucks up lots of the bed bugs themselves, which is especially useful if you have a heavy infestation. Just be sure to a) empty the vacuum cleaner bag once you’re done, and b) to empty it outside away from your property.
- Steam cleaning is an effective way to kill bed bugs. Bed bugs don’t like water in large quantities, because like most other animals, they can drown. They also don’t like the heat: anything hotter than 118 degrees is enough to kill them in twenty minutes. And the pressure of a steam cleaner can blast them out of their hiding places, too.
- Home remedies like diatomaceous earth and essential oils are toxic to bed bugs. Tea tree oil, in particular, is quite toxic when applied in large enough quantities. Just spray it everywhere you know the bed bugs are, and do it regularly to discourage repeat infestations.
Is Bed Bug Treatment Harmful to Pets?
Bed bug treatment isn’t necessarily harmful to pets, because it depends what method you choose. If you opt for a pesticide, then this could be harmful to your dog. But most people who treat bed bugs at home don’t use pesticides; they use one of the methods listed above.
Of the techniques we’ve listed, none are particularly harmful to dogs. The only exception is tea tree oil and other essential oils, which can be harmful to dogs in large doses. If you plan on using essential oils, allow them to dry before you allow the dog back into the area.
Other than that, stick to the two usual rules when treating bed bugs: be as thorough as possible, and be as patient as you can. Killing a bed bug infestation is very tough work, and you’re highly unlikely to succeed on the first pass. But stick with it, and with luck, you can kill just about any infestation—no matter how bad.
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This was very helpful. Thank your time and effort to helping someone else’s life.