These pesky nuisances known to mankind as bedbugs spread quite robustly throughout the tropical and temperate regions of the globe. Entomologists believe that they are likely to have been originated from Southeast Asia and then hitchhiked with Marco Polo in the medieval times, as he traveled from Venice, Italy to Asia. 

Today, these bugs are present in almost all the warm and humid regions of this globe, in association with human civilizations.  And if you have pets, then you might have an extra need for concern about these unwelcome house guests. 

Health Risks and Concerns

This urban invader is considered to be one of the most successful species of invader pests predominantly found in manmade structures. They feed on human and animal excrement and move through all sorts of places including sewers, drains, washrooms, etc. Each and every part of their body is loaded with all sorts of disease-causing pathogens like bacteria and viruses. Even a slight touch of these pests can transfer these pathogens to food items resulting in severe food poisoning in humans that consume that food. They are known to be carriers of organisms that can cause diarrhea, dysentery, plague, leprosy, typhoid fever, and even polio.

Not only do they bite and feed on humans, but bedbugs are also infamous for feeding on pet cats and dogs, thus becoming a potential health risk for your furry friends as well. 

Can my pet carry bed bugs?

This is highly improbable but not entirely impossible. This is because bedbugs do not live on house pets, or even on humans for that matter.  Neither do they spend a significant portion of their life cycle on them unlike fleas, ticks, lice or mites; but they are capable of biting your pets. Instead bedbugs prefer to live in dark corners and under covers such as in the bedding, between the curtains or in your pets’ bed. 

Bedbugs can be commonly found in overcrowded settings which experience a large turnover in occupancy such as homeless shelters, public transport and can easily hide in small cracks and crevices because of their small size.

You must thoroughly check for bedbugs especially when buying second-hand furniture, bedding, carpets or travel accessories and while staying away from home in hotels, etc. because they can easily hitchhike into your home along with your luggage and create a havoc. Cats can also be responsible for spreading bedbugs to adjacent homes or luring them in residential spaces. The reason is that cats are warm-blooded creatures that exhale carbon dioxide, just like humans. Both of these conditions provide an ideal environment for bedbugs to thrive in. 

Adult bed bugs
Adult bed bugs

Are they bedbugs or fleas?

It is common to mistake the two for each other because of the reason that they do share some common features – the fact that both bedbugs and fleas suck and feast on blood, are very tiny in size and both of them are nuisances whether at your home or workplace. The presence of both these pesky dwellers creates problems of their own and has a set of properties that helps distinguish between them. 

Bedbug vs. Flea Bites; Understanding The Difference

It’s horrifying enough to know that pesky bugs are scuttling around your house, and the idea of them biting you is even frightening. Imagine sleeping in your bed, feeling an insect crawling down your leg, and suddenly you feel a sharp shot of pain. Did the pest just bite your foot?

Now if we make a comparison between flea and bedbug bites, we find out that fleas are more likely to bite on lower regions of your body, so if you observe bite marks on your upper limbs, then they are likely to be caused by bedbugs. In addition to this, the area of the body where fleas bite begins to itch immediately, but it is rather unlikely for people to undergo any sort of a reaction to bedbug bites, unless and until they are very sensitive. When the pests begin biting, it is a sign that the infestation has risen to an alarming level and that appropriate measures need to be taken immediately. 

Both bedbugs and fleas feast on mammalian blood, but studies have found out that the flea larvae feed on feces. Adult fleas, however, require adequate amounts of blood for survival and reproduction. 

Bedbugs prefer feeding on humans while fleas are found feasting on animal blood. 

Bed bugs vs. fleas: Difference in overall appearance

If one happens to find a bug scuttling around in their house and you suspect it to be either a flea or a bed bug, then there is one way to tell them apart: bedbugs seem flat and wide whereas fleas are narrower when looked at sideways. Adult versions of both these pests are rust to dark brown in color. Adult bedbugs are approximately 3/16 inch in length, while fleas measure ⅛ inch.

Bed bugs and fleas mature differently. Bedbugs go through gradual metamorphosis. The life stages include eggs to nymphs, and then adults. Fleas, on the other hand, undergo complete metamorphosis; from eggs to larvae followed by pupae and finally adults. Bed bug nymphs appear to be like adult bed bugs but are paler and relatively small in size. Flea larvae resemble maggots. Bedbug eggs are white whereas flea eggs are cream white.

Bedbugs and Dogs

Bedbugs usually don’t feed on dogs when they get an adequate supply of blood from human hosts. These creatures also have difficulty moving through thick fur, but in case of extremely heavy infestations when food becomes scarce, they may feed on your pet.

Identifying bedbugs biting your pet can be difficult because of their tiny size, but when you find your dog scratching itself then it may be a sign that it has been bitten. However, you are more likely to notice bedbug bite symptoms in your family members first. In the presence of both a human and a dog, bedbugs will definitely choose the human over a dog. The carbon dioxide gas exhaled by a human being attracts a bedbug from distances as far as 50 feet.

Transmission of Disease to Dogs?

Although bedbugs have not been known to transmit disease-causing pathogens, their bites, however, can cause itching, wounds, allergic reaction, boils and secondary infections from scratching the bitten area. Bed bugs bite at areas that are remotely covered with hair and fur so that they could easily suck on blood. This is the reason why you are likely to find bedbug bites along your back or limbs rather than your scalp.

While biting pets, bed bugs will bite at places that give them easier access to skin. It is difficult for them to go around digging in fur, so they’ll pick body parts such as their bellies, ears, and legs.

Bedbugs and Cats

You need to keep checking your cat thoroughly to observe where they have scarce fur, and if they have red spots resulting from bedbug bites over there. Species of cats having a thicker coat of fur as compared to others are less susceptible to bedbug bites because of a lesser area for the bedbugs to latch onto.

When bitten, the cat is certain to constantly scratch the bite because of the itchiness. As they scratch the affected area, they can open up little scratch wounds and bleed. These open wounds on the skin are extremely likely to become infected, harboring a number of disease-causing pathogens, if the cat doesn’t let the wounds heal properly. If you happen to find such wounds on your cat’s body, clean them up constantly using a suitable antiseptic.

Just like humans, no two pets will have the same adverse reaction to bed bugs. Some people will get a rash when bitten while others don’t. In some people, bed bug bites get very itchy, while others experience no such itchiness. Same is the case with other animals, thus it is possible that your cat may not display any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Allergic Reactions in Cats

Other than secondary infections from wounds, bedbug bites can also lead to a severe allergic reaction in your cat. A research paper in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology states that bedbug bites can trigger the release of the IgE antibody, similar to the one that leads to asthma.

Whether internal or external, all sorts of parasites are known to cause allergic reactions. Following are some typical symptoms of an allergic reaction:

• Red or pink bumps around the bite marks

• Inflammation; either local or throughout the body, which can even be lethal

• Excessive buildup of mucus leading to a runny nose 

Before blaming bedbugs, it is crucial that one rules out all other potential possibilities of inflammation or allergic reactions. This reaction might be due to attack by an altogether different parasite, or some other causative agent. No matter what, it is ideal to consult a vet on an urgent basis for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Debugging your pet

Unlike fleas and mites, bedbugs don’t live on pets, rather they hide in furniture, bedding and small cracks and crevices in walls. Once they have finished feeding, they return to their hiding spot until it is feeding time again. It is likely for a bedbug to carry itself along on a dog, therefore your pet can act as a carrier for bedbugs to gain entrance into the house, but the pests cannot survive in its fur. The preferred hiding places for bedbugs are furniture, carpets, beddings, and narrow crevices, for the purpose of keeping themselves inconspicuous.

Removing bed bugs from cats

Unlike fleas and termites, bedbugs prefer to live near your cat’s bed or resting place. You can eliminate these pesky nuisances using heat treatment, pesticides, or home remedies like diatomaceous earth. No matter which of the methods you use, make sure that you tackle the entire infestation affecting your home, and not just your cat.

Inspecting the litter and bedding

Inspect your cat’s bedding or the place where it rests and look for fecal spots, dried spots of blood, pale yellow shells, skin scrapes or any live crawling bed bugs.

In case you find any one of these, launder the bedding at a high temperature. If the symptoms still remain, then the infestation might be a heavier one. 

 Bedbugs can’t live in cat litter for a number of reasons.

Bedbugs don’t prefer to burrow under things because their body structure is too wide and bulky for them to burrow into loose things like cat litter. The major reason behind this, however, is the fact that cat litter is composed of silica crystals, which are often used in medicines and other items for absorbing moisture and keeping things dry. Thus, when bedbugs come across things with chemicals such as silica, it can dry their body out, eventually killing them. 

Diatomaceous earth works using the same principle. It is small and sharp, enabling it to scrape off the lining of their outer shells. With the lining out of the way, these pests are unable to retain moisture, so they dry out and die. 

Pet-friendly extermination techniques

If you want to protect your pet from getting bitten by bedbugs, it is crucial that you eliminate every single one of these pests from your house, otherwise, they will form extensive colonies back again within days since they have a very high reproduction rate enabling them to spread robustly. Following is a step by step guide of how to get rid of bed bugs on cats.

• The first step should be cleaning your cat’s bed. If your cat has a regular bed that they sleep in all the time, it is extremely likely for you to find live bedbugs or nymphs around it. You can either dry clean the bed or simply buy a new one.

• Repeat the similar procedure all-around your house. All the furniture, curtains, bedding, etc has to be either thoroughly cleaned or replaced. It will burden you financially but not doing so will cause the bedbugs to return in full strength.

• Buy a mattress encasement to eliminate bedbugs right at the source.

These steps should be sufficient for getting rid of most of the bedbugs. The source of most of the bedbug population is your bed, thus isolating bugs using an encasement is a big enough step towards dealing with the infestation. The remaining colonies in your furniture can then be eliminated using a spray or a steam cleaner.

It is not necessary to throw all your pet’s bedding, clothing or stuffed toys out in the trash. Following are a few tips you might find helpful:

• Launder your pet’s bedding at the highest temperature settings of about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to be extra cautious while carrying the bedding to the laundry and sorting it out so that you prevent further spread of the bed bugs.

• If the clothing or the bedding cannot be washed, then you can try putting them in the dryer at medium to high heat for about 20 minutes.

• If the bedding or clothing happens to have spots, tears or holes in it then it is advised to get rid of it for good. Don’t dump them out in the open, rather place them in a sealable plastic bag, and mark it with a clearly visible sign that it is infested with bugs.

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

Tips for Pet Owners to Prevent Bedbug Infestations

In case you have taken your pet along with you on a trip, then you need to take extra precautions to prevent bringing any of these pesky hitchhikers into your home. Upon getting home, launder any of your dog’s clothing from the trip at high heat. Heat is efficient in killing live bedbugs, nymphs, and eggs that might have been carried along on these items.

If neither washing nor dry cleaning your pet’s clothing at high heat is possible, then it is advised to thoroughly inspect and vacuum the affected item. If you happen to find any pests, then properly dispose of the item in a manner that prevents further bed bug transmission, i.e. seal the bedding in a bag and throw it in the dumpster.

Washing your pet’s bedding from time to time and a thorough inspection for bedbugs after a trip can be of immense help in preventing an infestation. Having your home attacked by these pests can be extremely stressful but getting a professional’s help can prevent a heavy loss and get the situation under control provided that prompt action is taken. 

Crossfire and Bedbugs

Arguably the most effective method of eliminating bedbugs from your home is by using the pesticide Crossfire. It can not only get rid of all the bedbugs but can also prevent them from returning for months. This is because the pesticide continues to work long after it has been used. This way once the larvae hatch, they are automatically eliminated too. And the best part is that they are pet-friendly so you can use them in your home without worrying about how it will affect your pets. 

You Can Buy The EXACT Same Product The Pro’s Use! I Should know, it’s the ONLY product we use at my company Creepy Creatures, Inc. in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Dusty Showers has been in the urban nuisance wildlife and pest control field since 1993. Taught by Garon Fyffe, a pioneer in humane nuisance wildlife management, Dusty has a passion for finding humane solutions to human & wildlife conflicts. Dusty was the only individual invited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in the lat 1990's to help write legislation for legal protection of Florida bats. With an instinct for solving wildlife, Dusty found pest control to be an easy "add-on interest". Dusty started his first business "Animal Instincts Wildlife & Pest Management" in the Tampa Bay, Florida area in 1995. Eventually selling Animal Instincts in 2002, Dusty went on to start Creepy Creatures Termite and Pest Control in 2009, which he still owns and operates today in Palm Harbor, Florida.