Can Dogs Get Bed Bugs?

By: Amber Roberts



Photos via Centers for Disease Control

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are making a powerful, if undesirable, comeback after becoming scarce due to pesticide use in the 1950s. These parasites, once thought to infest only cheap motels and cluttered homes, can be found anywhere. Bed bugs hide in mattresses, furniture, cracks in the wall, and in cabinets—anywhere they can lay low until feeding time. Contrary to the stigma surrounding these parasites, their habitat isn’t restricted to unclean locations—they can be found just as easily in your favorite hotel or guest bedroom.

Do Bed Bugs Live on Dogs?

Bed bugs, unlike fleas and ticks, do not live on pets. They hide in furniture and crevices within a building. After biting to feed, the parasite will return to its hiding spot until it is time to eat again. It is possible for a bed bug to hitch a ride on a dog, so your pet could bring bed bugs into the house, but they will not live in its fur. Bed bugs prefer to sneak into suitcases and used furniture as these objects move less than people or pets do, making them a better hiding spot.

Do Bed Bugs Bite Dogs?

Bed bugs have difficulty moving through fur, but when hungry they may feed on your pet. It may be difficult to see bed bug bites on dogs, but scratching may be a sign that he has been bitten. Even so, you’d likely notice symptoms in your family members first. If a human is nearby, the bed bug will choose him over a dog. The carbon dioxide a human releases is what attracts a bed bug, and they can sense it from over 50 feet away. They will seek out a human rather than another warm-blooded animal.

Do Bed Bugs Transmit Disease to Dogs?

While bed bugs are not known to transmit infectious diseases, their bites can cause itching, sores, allergic reaction, and secondary infection from scratching at the bites.


Bedbugs feces (left) and eggs are signs to look for.
Photos via Wikipedia

What if I Find Bed Bugs?

Calling in a professional is the best way to get a bed bug infestation under control. Bed bug-sniffing dogs have made the news recently, though the accuracy of these pest detection dogs has been disputed. These signs may alert you to a bed bug infestation:

  • Reddish brown feces deposits on mattresses or where bed bugs may hide
  • Itchy bumps and mosquito-like bites on people, often in clusters or lines
  • Clear nymph skins shed by the growing bed bug
  • Egg deposits in mattresses or furniture
  • Visual confirmation of apple seed-sized bed bugs

If you notice these signs, contact an exterminator to check for an infestation and ask for pet-safe options to get rid of the blood-sucking pests.

Flea and tick treatments are not labeled for the treatment or prevention of bed bugs in dogs, so they can not claim efficacy as such. An EPA-approved treatment can be used on furniture and throughout the home, but your best option is to work with an experienced pest control company to eliminate the issue.

Bed Bug Prevention Tips for Pet Owners

If you’ve been on a trip with your dog, take precautions to prevent bringing any of these pesky hitchhikers into your home. When you get home, launder any of your dog’s bedding from the trip. If you can wash your dog’s bed in a washing machine, use the hottest temperature available in both the washer and dryer. Heat can kill bed bugs or eggs that have been transported on the items.

If you cannot put your dog’s bed in the washer, put it in the dryer for half an hour on medium/high heat. If neither is an option, thoroughly inspect and vacuum the bedding. If any bed bugs are present, dispose of the dog bed in a way that will minimize bed bug transmission; seal the bedding within a bag and place it directly in the dumpster.

Vacuum and thoroughly wipe your dog’s crate. Don’t leave the bedding or crate on or near your furniture without first inspecting for bed bugs to prevent the insects from moving into your furniture.

While pets can carry bed bugs into and throughout the house, you’re more likely to introduce these pests into your home via your dog bed, luggage, or clothing after a trip. Bed bugs are more likely to choose a human host, but they may also feed off your pets. Frequent washing of your dog’s bed, and checking for bed bugs after a trip can help prevent an infestation. Bed bugs may be stressful, but an expert can help you get the situation under control if you act promptly.

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