Bed Bugs and Your Dog – What You Need To Know

Bed bugs – those creepy, blood sucking parasitic insects certainly know how to ruin a vacation. After all the planning, the saving and booking of your pet friendly hotel, it would be a huge hassle if you happen to bring home a few unwanted guests in your luggage. But what if you learned that not only were these critters hiding in your dirty laundry … they decided to make a home on your furry friends? Not good!

Will bed bugs bite my pet?

Will bed bugs bite my pet?

If bed bugs have crashed your vacation upon the backs of your pets here are some tips to make sure you, your home, and your pets are safe.

First, understand that bed bugs are looking for one thing – food. That food comes in the form of blood from humans and animals alike. Now, unlike our pets, we don’t have an additional layer of fur to guard us from a bite. That doesn’t mean that your pets are 100% protected, it just means a bed bug might have to work a bit harder reaching its goal. A little fur isn’t going to stop a bed bug.

Second, bed bugs are usually nighttime pests – their active period of feeding usually occurs between midnight and sunrise. So while you and your pets are sound asleep, these insects will usually crawl from their resting places – beds, couches, and dark crevices – to do their dirty work. You might never see them, but their bites will be obvious on our on your legs and arms, and the extra scratching from your dogs will be noticeable.

So now what? First, call your veterinarian and have them prescribe a shampoo to rid the bugs from your pet’s fur. A solid washing with this medicated shampoo is in order. Local or topical flea and tick treatments (like Frontline) are not going to be enough and are not made to remove bed bugs. A warm bath with this special shampoo should be enough to kill the bugs that have taken up residency on your pet.

Next, it is time for some heavy-duty laundry and cleaning. Keep in mind that bed bugs are not fleas and are not looking to make your pets a home. They are looking for food and they use your bed, your couch, the dog’s bed, and the carpet as places to hide out when it is not feeding time. Wash your pet’s bedding, toys, and anything plush they come in contact with.

Don’t forget about your household and personal items as well. Washing bedding, clothing, couch cushions…really anything and everything that can be cleaned at a high temperature should be given a proper washing.

Bed bugs will die in heat of 120 degrees Fahrenheit if they are exposed for 10-20 minutes.  The dryer is a good source of this heat, but items that can’t be laundered can be wrapped in plastic and placed in your car all day on a sunny day. Cold will also kill bed bugs, but a temperature below 32 degrees must be maintained for several days.

If, after all your washing and cleaning, the bed bugs still remain, it is time to call a professional exterminator to deal with these elusive pests. Pest control services use steam or freezing followed by immediate vacuuming to remove these pesky critters. The good news is that, despite their annoyance, bed bugs have not been linked to transmitting any disease. Regardless, if you pets continue to itch trouble spots from bites, it might be wise to pay your veterinarian a visit to provide some relief for your dogs. 

Amy Burkert runs the award-winning pet travel website,, which makes it easy to plan a trip with your entire family. Her blog, Take Paws, is an encyclopedia of pet travel tips, pet friendly destination advice, and stories of the adventures she and her husband share as they travel full-time in their Winnebago with their dogs, Ty and Buster.


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