Have you taken a trip recently? Whether you went to visit a family or friend nearby, went out of town, or traveled abroad, you were sleeping in someone else’s bed and in someone else’s room, which may potentially have had bed bugs present. Bed bugs are nasty little hitchhikers and after you have arrived back home, unbeknownst to you, bed bugs came right along as an unwanted souvenir of your travels.
A problem believed to have been wiped out in the 50’s and 60’s, bed bug infestations have exploded across the nation in homes, places of business, apartments and hotels. Experts have said it is largely due to tourism and international travel that has been on the rise since the 70’s. However, that is not the only way that bed bugs can gain access into your home.
Some people believe that dogs, much like fleas, bring bed bugs into their home that may have crawled onto their bodies while outside. Is this true? We will cover it in detail and inform you on how you can keep you and your pets safe from bed bug bites in this article as well as touch on how dogs can actually be a helpful partner in eliminating bed bugs in your home.
Bed Bug Background Information
It’s important to know as much as you can about bed bugs if you have discovered that they are living among you. Scientifically named Cimex lectularius, bed bugs are tiny reddish-brown bugs that require feeding on mammal blood for their survival. Bed bugs mostly prefer human blood but can also feed on the blood of dogs, cats, birds, bats and rodents.
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Bed bugs are nocturnal, meaning they hide and rest during the day and activate at night. This works to their advantage, making it easy for them to feed on humans unknowingly as we sleep in our beds (which is how they earned their name). Depending on the person and how they react to bed bug saliva, the bites from a bed bug can become very itchy and leave reddish-pink raised welts on their skin or they may cause no reaction at all.
It may surprise some to note that bed bugs do not have the ability to fly or jump. To explain how one day you may have no bed bugs, and the next day you have a full blown infestation, it is because of the bed bugs ability to sneakily crawl and hide. Bed bugs gain access to homes by crawling onto human belongings, items being transported, second hand furniture, and even clothing.
Once they have infiltrated a home, they will feed on the blood of the residents of the home and lay eggs, multiplying their number quickly as eggs hatch within weeks and bed bugs become reproducing adults in a little over a month. A handful of bed bugs can become an invasion of hundreds if there is no intervention to stop the spread.
Bed bugs can be an especially difficult problem to get rid of if you live in an apartment because they can easily move between units to the point where even if you eliminate bed bugs you presently have, bed bugs can move on in from a neighboring apartment because of how tiny they are and how their flat bodies make it easy to travel from unit to unit.
Dispelling the Myth of Bed Bugs on Dogs
It’s important to note that fleas and bed bugs are not the same. While they are both parasitic insects that like to feed on the blood of humans and animals, their habits couldn’t be more different. Bed bugs do not crawl onto the body of dogs and remain there to live and feed. Instead they prefer to nuzzle in hiding spaces in areas where pets and humans like to sleep and rest, coming out of hiding only to feed on blood before retreating back to their hiding spots.
Fleas, on the other hand, like to live on the body of dogs. They also have leaping abilities where they can jump and grab onto the skin and fur of a dog while they are outside playing, waiting for the opportunity to hop on. Bed bugs do not find it easy to move though fur and hair.
Bed bugs, first and foremost, prefer to feed on a human above all and will only target a dog when they are desperate to feed and there are no humans around. So to say that you should worry about your dog encountering bed bugs or being the cause of bed bugs being in your home is highly unlikely. The bed bugs are almost always there because of the human host.
How to Tell that Your Dog Is Suffering From Bed Bugs
Is your dog overly itchy and irritable? If it isn’t fleas, it may certainly be bed bugs if you are aware of an infestation and know that you’ve been bitten as well. Like they inflict upon humans, bed bugs can also leave tiny red bumps on a dog as well, focusing the feeding on the less furry parts of the body like their belly and around their ears or limbs.
Aside from bite marks, a good way to detect that bed bugs are present is the appearance of bed bug poop or fecal stains, which can be dark reddish brown or even black when enough time has passed for the spot to age. Check for these spots around your pets sleeping areas. You should also keep an eye out for shed skins. These look bed bugs but the bodies are hollow. Growing nymph bed bugs shed their skins 4 or 5 times before their reach adulthood so these may be all over the place if the infestation is large enough.
Also, when infestations are particularly heavy, you will be able to smell a unique sweet musty smell of blood that bed bugs give off when there are a lot of them present.
Dogs Can Sniff Out Bed Bugs!
While it is rare or unlikely that a dog is going to be a victim to bed bugs, they can certainly become your ally in detecting where the infestation could be concentrated. Dogs have a superior sense of smell over humans and they can be trained to sniff out bed bugs. Some bed bug exterminator professionals even take along trained bed bug sniffing dogs on inspection calls to assist them in locating a bed bug invasion in a home.
Treating Your Home For Bed Bugs
Once you have pinpointed the areas where bed bugs have left evidence and have an idea of where they are frequently gathering, you can then carry out a bed bug treatment program. When it comes to your dog, there’s no need to use any special shampoos or bathes since bed bugs wont be living on them. Instead what you should do is focus on cleaning their bedding area.
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Whatever bedding materials they lay on to sleep should be tossed in a laundry cycle, along with any infested clothing you suspect bed bugs to be in, bed sheets, pillow cases and blankets. Thankfully, if there’s any weakness that bed bugs have, it’s high temperatures. By putting the washer and dryer settings on high heat, you can kill bed bugs that are infesting those items. However, that will only take care of a small segment of the population.
Next, vacuum your home thoroughly and continue to do so on a daily basis until the bed bug problem is gone. Use your vacuum accessories and crevice attachments to vacuum your mattress, box spring, couches, dressers, nightstands and any other places you suspect they may be hiding. After every vacuuming, it’s important to change out bags or clean out the plastic canister to discard any captured adult bed bugs, nymphs or eggs. Toss the contents in a plastic bag and throw it in a trash can or dumpster outside of the home.
Finally, the final blow to the remaining bed bugs is applications of bed bug insecticides. There are many bed bug killers you can choose from, so not everything is going to work. Make sure the bed bug products you get are from reputable sources. The products that work the best are bed bug aerosol sprays, bed bug powders or dusts, and insect growth regulator products.
Bed bug aerosols often have a residual effect that will kill bed bugs long after application once they crawl over a treated area. Spray your furniture, box spring and mattress with the product and wait an hour or so for the product to fully dry before you can safely sit or lay on them.
Puff bed bug powders in the tight cracks and crevices (wall voids, electrical outlets etc.) that bed bugs hide in and use to travel from room to room. Finally use insect growth regulators to prevent bed bug eggs from hatching and to stop the reproductive process so the bed bugs are unable to multiply.
These products should be applied repeatedly at least every two weeks until you no longer see or spot bed bug activity before you can safely declare the infestation to be eliminated.
Preventing Bed Bug Reinfestation
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Once bed bugs are no longer in your home, that doesn’t mean that they won’t make a comeback. There are steps you should take to ensure a reinfestation doesn’t occur:
- When traveling or staying at a hotel, properly examine the mattress, box spring, and headboard for bed bugs or their signs. You should also keep your luggage near the door.
- When returning from travel unpack your luggage outdoors and immediately toss your clothing into the washing machine to kill any bed bugs that may have potentially hitched a ride.
- Invest in bed bug encasements and put them around every mattress and box spring you have in your home. This will dramatically reduce that chances of bed bugs infestation by exposing them and taking away their hiding spots they rely on to thrive.
Now that you have learned that bed bugs are not as big a threat to dogs as they are to you, make sure that you implement the proper precautions and techniques in this article in case you are dealing with bed bugs or want to avoid encountering them in the future.
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