Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They are a nuisance pest that can infest homes, hotels, schools, and other places where humans sleep or rest. But do bed bugs also feed on our furry companions – dogs? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
Do bed bugs bite dogs?
Yes, bed bugs can and do bite dogs. Dogs, like humans, provide a blood meal source for bed bugs. However, dogs are not the preferred host for bed bugs – they prefer feeding on humans. But they will bite dogs if a human host is not available.
When bed bugs bite dogs, they often target areas with less fur, such as the ears, muzzle, belly, and between the toes. The bites will look similar to bites on humans – small, red, itchy welts. Dogs may scratch or lick the bites, leading to infection. Signs your dog may have bed bug bites include:
- Red, raised welts on the skin
- Intense itchiness and scratching
- Evidence of bites on ears, muzzle, belly
- Hair loss from scratching
- Secondary skin infection from biting and scratching
If you suspect your dog has bed bug bites, inspect your home for signs of infestation. Look for live or dead bed bugs, dark spots from bed bug droppings, eggs, and shell casings. Inspect mattresses, bed frames, couches, and other areas near where your dog sleeps or rests.
Are dogs sensitive to bed bug bites?
Dogs can have sensitivity to bed bug bites, just like humans. The saliva of bed bugs contains proteins that provoke an allergic reaction in some individuals. These proteins are an anesthetic that allows the bed bug to feed without being detected.
For sensitive dogs, bed bug bites may cause:
- Significant itching, scratching, licking, and discomfort
- Hives or skin rash around the bite sites
- Hair loss from repeated scratching and biting
- Hot spots or skin infections secondary to the irritation
Dogs that are allergic to the proteins in bed bug saliva can have a more intense reaction with swelling, inflammation, and fluid-filled blisters. Seek veterinary attention if your dog has these signs of allergic reaction.
Will bed bugs live on dogs?
Bed bugs prefer living in areas where they have access to human hosts. However, they can temporarily live on dogs. After taking a blood meal, bed bugs will seek out cracks, crevices, and protected areas to digest the meal and rest.
Areas on dogs that bed bugs may temporarily inhabit include:
- Folds of skin
- Between toes
- Under collar or harness
- In fur
- In ear canal
These areas protect the bed bug from being detected or groomed off. But they will not stay on a dog permanently without a regular human host nearby. The bed bugs will eventually seek out a human to provide their next blood meal.
Can dogs bring bed bugs into your home?
It is unlikely for dogs to introduce a new bed bug infestation. Bed bugs cannot reproduce without repeated access to human blood meals. While they can temporarily survive on dogs, they need repeated feedings from humans to breed and multiply.
That said, dogs could potentially transport bed bugs from one location to another. If bed bugs are present in your home, they could hitch a ride on your dog when traveling or visiting other places. But your dog would not be the original source of the infestation.
Can dogs detect bed bugs?
Specially trained dogs can be used by pest management professionals to inspect for bed bugs. Their keen sense of smell allows them to detect even very small numbers of bed bugs.
Dogs can pinpoint areas bed bugs are living or hiding much more accurately than humans alone. However, using dogs does not completely replace human visual inspection. And not all dogs can be easily trained for bed bug detection.
Scent detection dogs are utilized by some companies, hotels, and housing authorities to inspect for bed bugs. But most pet dogs do not have specific training for this task.
Effects of bed bugs on dogs
The effects of bed bugs on dogs may include:
- Itching, skin irritation, and discomfort from bites
- Hair loss and skin lesions from scratching
- Secondary skin infection
- Anemia and fatigue if infestation is significant
- Allergic reaction in sensitive dogs
- Restlessness and changes in behavior
These effects can negatively impact your dog’s health and quality of life. So it’s important to inspect for and treat bed bugs soon after the first signs of infestation.
Treating dogs for bed bugs
If you confirm bed bugs in your home, you’ll need professional pest control treatment. This will involve spraying insecticides and using targeted heat treatments to kill bed bugs wherever they are hiding.
For your dog, you can help relieve itching and prevent infection by:
- Bathing your dog with a soothing oatmeal shampoo
- Gently cleaning bite areas with antiseptic
- Applying hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching
- Using an e-collar to prevent biting and scratching
- Treating any secondary skin infection with antibiotics
Anti-itch medications may also be prescribed by your veterinarian. Ensure all bedding, crates, and toys are thoroughly cleaned and treated to eliminate bed bugs living on your dog’s items.
Preventing bed bugs in dogs
To help prevent bed bug infestations in your home and on your dog:
- Inspect any second-hand furniture before bringing it inside
- Check your own luggage after staying in hotels
- Isolate and wash clothes after trips immediately
- Inspect your home regularly for signs of infestation
- Treat dogs preventively with flea/tick medications that contain insect growth regulators
Catching an infestation quickly before it spreads is key. Inspect your dog’s sleeping areas, including his crate and bedding, on a regular basis.
- Bed bugs can and will bite dogs, though dogs are not their preferred host
- Dogs can have reactions to the bites, including itching, hives, rashes, and infection
- Bed bugs only temporarily inhabit dogs and need human blood to reproduce
- Dogs likely won’t introduce an entirely new bed bug infestation
- Scent detection dogs can be trained to pinpoint bed bugs
- Bites and scratching can impact a dog’s health and quality of life
- Professional and veterinary treatment is needed to eliminate bed bugs on dogs
The bottom line
While bed bugs prefer feeding on humans, they will readily bite dogs if a human host is unavailable. Dogs can suffer adverse effects from the bites and secondary skin infections. So it’s important to take steps to prevent bed bug infestations and get professional pest control help at the first signs of bed bugs.
With vigilance and prompt treatment, bed bugs don’t have to be a cause of misery for either you or your beloved dog.