Can Pets Carry Bed Bugs?

dog biting leg with magnifying glass showing bed bugs on dog

Bed bugs are great hitchhikers, and your beloved pet can give them a ride without even knowing it. Unlike fleas and ticks, bed bugs don’t generally like to feast on pets, but they certainly don’t mind using them as public transportation to get from one place to another. 

Having said that, if they have to, they’ll settle for your pet as an alternate fuel source until they can get to the good stuff – you! But since it’s harder to navigate fur than bare human skin, they won’t hang around on Fido or Whiskers very long. 

Knowing how to tell if your dog or cat has bed bugs can help you give them the best treatment. 

Key Takeaways:

Pets can carry bed bugs: But although they’re happy to hitch a ride, bed bugs won’t live in your pet’s fur.

Signs that your pet has bed bugs: You’ll see them crawling on your pet or its bed, they’ll leave tiny blood spots on their bedding, and your pet may scratch excessively. 

Call an exterminator for large infestations: Eliminating a small infestation on your own by rigorous cleaning may be possible but for severe infestations, call bed bug extermination professionals. 

Take your pet to the vet: A qualified vet will treat bug bites or any infection it may have caused and get rid of any bed bugs on your pet. 

Prevention tips: Regular cleaning and examination of pet beds and accessories, and maintaining general good home hygiene can keep bed bugs away. 

Do Bed Bugs Live on Cats and Dogs?

closeup of bed bug on a sheet
Photo Credit: Dmitry Bezrukov / Canva Pro / License

Bed bugs cherish their privacy and peace, and they are highly unlikely to get any of it when they’re on your pet, especially ones that are active. 

So wherever the bed bugs come from, they won’t live on your pet like fleas or ticks. The only time bed bugs will stay on your pet is maybe during the nighttime when your pet isn’t moving and these pesky insects have the time to dig through their fur, find a nice spot, and nibble away. 

Bed bugs won’t live in your pet’s fur, but they sure can bite them. They’ll feed and go back to their hiding spot. This is the primary reason they prefer humans over animals; less fur, easy meals.  

Can Pets Carry Bed Bug Eggs?  

Bed bugs need a dark, covered space to lay eggs and ensure their safety. These spots could be protected seams and crevices of your mattress or pet’s bed, seams of couch cushions, gym bag, or even your pant cuff. 

Fully grown bed bugs are just ¼ of an inch and lay up to 250 to 500 eggs in their short lives, or between 2 and 5 eggs a day. Fortunately, your dog or cat’s fluff will not become a nest for bed bug eggs because they prefer human environments; mattresses and furniture being top favorites.  

But can your dog carry bed bug eggs? Yes, if your cat or dog sits in an infested space the eggs will catch onto their hair and be transmitted to another part of your house. So, even though bed bugs won’t lay eggs on their hosts, they can still spread through your hairy little friend.

Signs Your Pet Has Bed Bugs

bed bug nymph, eggs and feces on floor
Photo Credit: louento.pix / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

If you catch your furry friend scratching more often than usual and suspect bed bugs, here are some things to look out for:

  • Tiny brown spots on the pet’s bedding, couch/chair where they sit most of the time, or your pet’s fabric chew toys. The brown spot is generally your pet’s dried blood after a bug bite or fecal matter of the bug. 
  • Bed bugs themselves, roaming in the immediate surroundings of your pet. This includes mattresses, litter for rodents, cats, and birds, furniture, cardboard boxes, dark spaces (e.g., open bags of cat litter or cat food), and other pet accessories. 
  • Exoskeletons or bed bug droppings that look like round, black or reddish-brown spots. 
  • Check your dog or cat’s collar. Though rare, bed bugs in transit might stay there until they find a human host. 
  • Signs of bed bug bites on your pet. These include red welts, sores, or irritated bite marks around their ears or belly and excessive scratching and licking. Overall irritability can also be a sign. 
  • Bed bugs also have a smell, check for a subtle rank, musty odor. 

What to Do If Your Pet Has Bed Bugs?

So you find signs of bed bugs on or around your pet. Here’s what you do:

  • Remove all the bedding, toys, and fabrics that come in contact with your fur baby, and wash it all with high heat
  • Vacuum the house thoroughly.
  • Call pest control services to examine the extent of infestation and guide you about the treatment plans. 
  • If it’s a widespread infestation, you’ll be asked to take your pet away from the property during the bed bug treatment. So whether it’s your dog, cat, hamster, guinea pig, reptile, or a mini-aquarium pet, they’ll have to leave. Make sure you clean the cages, toys, feeding bowls, and accessories before bringing them with your pet during bed bug treatment. 
  • You might even have to throw away some household items that are heavily infested to ensure proper extermination.
  • Change cat litter right before or maybe after you leave your place to ensure no bug travels with you. 
  • After the bed bug treatment, follow your exterminator’s directions regarding re-entering the property. And when you do, air out all the rooms adequately. 

Note: Many pets are super sensitive to chemicals, so discuss in detail with your exterminator about the insecticides they’re using. It has to be pet- and environment-friendly.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Cats and Dogs

Photo Credit: Kzenon / Canva Pro / License

Once you’ve started treatment for bed bugs in your home, it’s time to get your pet checked by the vet. Comb off any bed bugs you see in your pet’s fur, but be careful not to irritate a bite spot. 

Although bed bugs cannot transfer disease to pets or humans, their bites can lead to infections from excessive scratching. When your pet scratches open wounds, bacteria and even fungus from their paws may cause a serious infection. 

Ask for your vet’s advice on safe repellent products to get rid of bed bugs, eggs, or shells still stuck to your pet’s fur. There currently isn’t a specific product for this but your vet might suggest bathing your pet with a soothing, anti-itch shampoo, or using a relief spray, and prescribing antihistamines. 

How to Keep Your Pet Safe from Bed Bugs

Early detection is the key to keeping bed bugs at bay. Remember, bed bugs are skillful hiders, and in order to protect your pet from these nuisances you need to protect yourself first. A few everyday practices that can help:

  • The most common way bed bugs enter your home is by hopping onto something of yours. When you travel, examine the hotel beds for bed bugs and clean your luggage, dust your clothes, and bags before entering the house. 
  • Avoid clutter in the house and frequently vacuum, including ignored spaces such as under the bed and behind the headboard. Make sure you empty the vacuum after every clean to ensure there’s no chance of escape if a bug is caught. 
  • Regularly wash your pet’s bed and dry it for at least 30 minutes so all the bacteria and possible bugs are killed. 
  • If you cannot wash your pet’s bed, use a steam cleaner to kill bugs. 
  • Seal all cracks, trim, and crevices near your pet’s bedding using caulk since bed bugs are drawn to these small, dark spaces. Check for cracks periodically and fix them.
  • Examine your pet’s bed and places where they rest for bed bugs. 
  • Always inspect the furniture you buy, especially used furniture bought from yard sales or thrift stores, since they can be breeding grounds for bed bugs. 
  • Ensure that your car is free from bed bugs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dogs get bed bugs in their ears?

A bed bug can crawl into your dog’s ear but won’t stay there since fur and hair aren’t a favored resting spot for bed bugs.

Can cats kill bed bugs?

Bed bugs have a distinctive sweetish-musty smell that cats can detect even before the infestation spreads. The odor is pungent enough that a human is able to detect it. When cats detect a bug’s presence, they won’t instinctively kill them. However, cats and dogs can be trained to chase and kill bed bugs. 

Can bed bugs transmit diseases to dogs and cats?

No, fortunately, bed bugs are not disease carriers. However, excessive itching causes your poor little friend to scratch and lick the bites, which can lead to open wounds, infections, and more issues. 

Need a Pro?

Delaying treatment or trying to kill bed bugs with vinegar and other kitchen items is not wise when you have a pet’s health at stake. So to save yourself and your pet from distress, it’s best to let an experienced professional get rid of the bed bug population. 

PestGnome connects you with the best-in-business bed bug control pros near you who can eliminate bed bugs with pet-safe insecticides. 

Main Photo Credit: Dog: ulkas / Canva Pro / License, Bed bug: Dmitry Bezrukov / Canva Pro / License

Farah Nauman

Farah Nauman is a freelance writer and an accountant based in Pakistan. She spends most of her time combating the South Asian heat and being a mom to her three fluffy cats and a dozen little Aloe Veras in her house.