If you’ve got bed bugs and pets, you officially have one more layer of worry.
Not only are you stressed about bed bugs biting you but now you’re lying awake at night, feeling terrible at the prospect of your unfortunate furry roommates becoming a delicious blood meal for some nasty little bugger.
Are your pets at risk, you wonder? Do bed bugs bite dogs or cats? Even worse, can they live on them?
Bed bugs are a little unusual among pest species in that they deliberately target humans. We like to think of ourselves as the top of the food chain, the masters of the universe.
But to a bed bug, we’re just dinner. Big, warm bags of delicious blood, lumbering around and just asking to be bitten. Not a pleasant thought, is it? No wonder bed bugs inspire such visceral hate.
Bed bugs adapted and evolved alongside humans to be very effective at feeding on us. But if you have pets, you may be wondering if they are also at risk from bed bugs.
After all, dogs, cats, and other mammals all have blood, too. Do bed bugs really care where their next meal comes from? Well, the answer is a little more complicated than you might think.
So let’s take a look at the risk bed bugs pose to your four-legged friends.
Do bed bugs bite dogs?
The bed bugs we know and hate aren’t the only bloodsucking bugs in their family. It’s thought that bed bugs adapted to feed on humans back when humans still lived in caves.
Caves that were also home to bats. There is a creature called a bat bug that is almost indistinguishable from a bed bug to the naked eye. And one theory is that bed bugs evolved from these bat bugs.
Likewise, another bug in the bed bug’s disgusting family is the swallow bug, which gets its name from its habit of feeding on swallows and other birds. So bed bugs are quite capable of feeding on nonhuman animals.
Now, the bed bugs humans most commonly deal with can be surprisingly picky. They display preferences in terms of who and what they feed on. Since bed bugs are such connoisseurs, it may not be a surprise to learn that they will often walk right by a sleeping dog to bite a human instead.
Unlike lice, bed bugs do not have the necessary body parts to allow them to cling onto hairs. For this reason, they often find furry animals less appetizing than sweet, smooth people.
But that doesn’t mean your dog is safe.
If a bed bug infestation grows large enough that they need to seek out a new food source, or if the bed bugs can’t reach the humans they crave, these insects are not above biting a dog.
If you have bed bugs and you notice your dog scratching more than usual, it’s entirely possible that your pet is being bitten.
Can bed bugs live on dogs?
Although they have a similar diet, bed bugs are quite different from fleas and other pests that sometimes bite pets.
Bed bugs can’t live on a dog’s body, just as bed bugs can’t live on a human. They don’t like to rest on animals that move, and they have trouble clinging to hairs in the same way that lice can.
Bed bugs typically bite their host, feed for a minute or two, and then retreat to a dark spot nearby where they can hide and digest their stolen meal. So bed bugs won’t be living on your dog or on you, which is something of a relief, isn’t it?
However, if your dog is getting bitten by bed bugs, it will probably become itchy. Licking and scratching the bitten areas can make the itching worse and create a rash.
This is often the first sign that your dog is being bitten by bed bugs. And unlike with other members of your family, you can’t simply tell a dog not to scratch its bites.
In fact, even when you know scratching will only make them worse, it can be impossible for people to resist the temptation too.
So how do you put a stop to bed bugs biting your dog? Well, bed bugs won’t live on a dog’s body, but they will often live close by. Check your pet’s bedding and anywhere else it sleeps for signs of a bed bug infestation. Signs such as droppings, shed skins, eggs or the bed bugs themselves.
Do bed bugs bite cats?
If they can’t get to humans, bed bugs will bite cats as readily as they will dogs. Given how much time the average cat spends grooming itself, it can be difficult to tell if your cat is grooming excessively unless bald patches begin to appear.
Because cats are so fastidiously tidy, they make an extremely inhospitable host for bed bugs. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be bitten.
Just like with dogs and humans, bed bugs won’t live on the cat itself, but they will live near its sleeping areas. So if you find a bed bug on your cat or dog, check where the animal sleeps rather than checking the animal itself.
What about other pets?
As a general rule, if it has blood and breathes out carbon dioxide, bed bugs can feed on it. If they can’t get human, that is.
So birds can also be targets for bed bugs, as can rodents like rats, hamsters, mice, and gerbils.
However, if you’re a reptile fan, you don’t need to worry. Cold-blooded animals like snakes and lizards are not attractive to bed bugs at all.
In fact, it’s more likely that the lizard would eat the bugs than the other way around. Likewise, your houseplants and your pet rock are perfectly safe. Unless you panic when you see a bed bug and throw them at it.
How to avoid bed bugs on pets?
Bed bugs won’t live on your pet the way that fleas will, so a flea collar is not going to help keep the bed bugs off your cat or dog. Likewise, pesticide sprays designed for your pet’s fur such as flea shampoo won’t do much.
The best way to protect your pet from bed bugs is the same way you need to protect yourself: by ridding your house of bed bugs completely.
Here are the smartest ways to do it!
Heat to kill bed bugs
The good news about bed bugs is that there is a very effective, all natural option to kill both bed bugs and their eggs. And everyone has access to it.
Yup, we’re talking about heat. Temperatures over 120°F kill bedbugs and their eggs instantly. So the first thing you want to do is to run your pet’s bedding through a dryer on the hottest setting to kill any bed bugs or eggs that are inside.
Another wise idea is to invest in a steam cleaner if you don’t already have one. That way, you can treat your own and your pet’s bedding with a steam cleaner to kill any bed bugs that are on it.
We recommend the McCulloch Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner. It’s affordable, extremely versatile and it heats water to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to destroy generations of bed bugs feasting on your and your pets.
Natural bed bug killers
Using pesticides in homes with pets is a tricky balance between killing bugs and not harming your animals. For this reason, nonchemical treatments such as steam, heat, and isopropyl alcohol are recommended for getting rid of bed bugs in a home with pets.
However, there are a few products that will help you to kill bed bugs without harming your pets.
One such option is diatomaceous earth, which kills bed bugs when they try to crawl over it. This fine powder is useful as a perimeter application around baseboards and on furniture.
Food grade diatomaceous earth won’t harm pets if they accidentally ingest it, but make sure not to apply too much. You want a thin, barely visible layer, not clumps of the powder scattered through your home.
Another great option is Premo’s Bed Bug & Lice Killer, which is a pet safe bed bug spray that can be useful in the fight against bed bugs. This spray uses natural, non-toxic ingredients to kill bed bugs and their young on contact without posing any risk to your pets.
It can be used on a pet’s bedding or anywhere else your dog or cat often rests without harming your furry friend.
How to treat bed bug bites on dogs and cats?
Okay, you’ve killed legions of bed bugs plaguing your pets but what about the bites? How do you treat bed bug bites on dogs and cats so they aren’t so miserable while healing?
If your cat or dog shows signs of skin irritation from bed bug bites, treat the affected area directly. Soothing lotions containing aloe vera or calendula can be applied to your animal’s skin to provide relief from the itching caused by bed bug bites.
DERMagic’s Skin Rescue Lotion contains organic aloe vera and vitamin E to help skin heal as well as sulfur to relieve itching. It’s great for treating bed bug bites on dogs and cats.
Make sure to consult your vet before using any product on your pet to ensure it won’t be harmful if ingested.
The itching of bed bug bites is not caused by the bite itself, but by the body’s reaction to the bite. This is true of cats, dogs, and humans.
So an antihistamine medication such as Benadryl can be useful to reduce the itching of bed bug bites. Both dogs and cats can be given Benadryl, but always consult with the vet for the correct dosage before giving your pet any medication.
Bed bugs are a nightmare in any household, but when you have pets, things become even more complicated. You can try all you want to reason with your dog or cat, but they are unlikely to respond.
So it’s up to you to keep your pets bed bug-free. And the best way to keep bed bugs away from your pets is, of course, to keep them out of your home completely.
That’s easier said than done, you say. But the point is that it can be done. If you’re ready to wage war with these bloodsuckers and get them out of your life for good, start with our guide on how to hunt and kill bed bugs.