By Nicole Pajer
Bed bugs were a common problem in the ‘60s but seemed to dwindle down for a while. Recent reports of bed bug infestations have shown that these pesky parasitic creatures that feed on human hosts are back and are becoming a serious issue. Bed bugs have popped up everywhere from five star hotels to senior centers and family homes. With increased bed bug cases reported, a number of questions have risen about these infestations. Dog owners are beginning to wonder whether or not bed bugs can affect their four legged companions.
“Technically it can happen but the short answer is no,” says Water Penny of Colorado Bed Bug K9, LLC. Bed bugs prefer to feed on human blood and unlike fleas and ticks; they are not bioengineered to move through fur and hair. Penny explains that while bed bugs do not seek out canine hosts that everything is dependent on the level of infestation and if the problem gets extreme enough, it’s possible that bed bugs may infiltrate a dog’s bed as a secondary source of food. “It becomes an overcrowding issue. If there is no other place for them to go then they will go to alternative food sources and that would be cats, birds, dogs and other mammalian pets. What I tell my clients though is they will walk over 50 cats and dogs to get to us. We’re the primary food source so when you find them in a dog’s bed, that’s the least of your problems, and it’s miserable for the poor dog but you’ve got more serious issues going on. You’ve got a massive infestation!”
If you do find bed bugs in your dog’s bed here is what to do:
“Generally, the dryer is your best friend. Depending on the size of the dog bed or if it’s got a zip off cover, just throw it in the dryer for 20 to 30 minutes. You can wash it but it’s the heat that really takes care of it and gets both the adults and the eggs,” says Penny.
Bed bugs, scientifically known as Cimex lectularius, are small parasitic insects that survive on blood. They are nocturnal and feed on their hosts when they are asleep, against their knowledge. Many people bit by bed bugs will show a tiny pink insect bite on their skin (similar to a mosquito or flea bite), however, thirty to fifty percent of the population does not physically react to the bites. Bed bug bites can also take several days to manifest themselves making it difficult to know when and where they might have occurred. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs cannot fly, jump or teleport. They are strictly a crawling insect that enters your home through stowing away in things like luggage, furniture, and bedding. Aside from bites, a good way to spot bed bugs in your home is to identify bed bug fecal matter, which appears black, dark brown or reddish. Depending on the type of surface they are on, bed bug droppings will either bead up or be absorbed by the material around it. When inside a human environment, the average bed bug can live about a year. Bed bugs can live up to 70 days without a meal. Infestations that are left untreated can easily multiply and spread throughout a location such as an entire apartment complex.
The increased case of bed bug spotting has led to the use of canine bed bug detection services such as Penny’s Colorado Bed Bug K9 LLC. A dog’s sense of smell is so acute that it can locate a single bed bug with its nose!
Penny has been working as a bed bug inspector since 2008. In his daily detection work, he employs the use of his canine partner, Macaroni to sniff out bed bugs. “I got Macaroni when he was about 10 months old. He’s a rescue shelter dog – a whippet/lab/beagle mix,” explains Penny who jokes that he often refers to Macaroni as a “whable.” When Penny gets a call about a possible bed bug infestation, he grabs Macaroni and heads in to check things out. Penny places Macaroni on a lead and the duo enters a building. Next, Macaroni sniffs out the environment and searches for signs of bed bugs. “When he smells something, he’ll stop and he will stand there and sit down. Then he’ll point with his nose and he’ll freeze. I give him a treat and we play and I tell him how wonderful he is and then we get back to work,” explains Penny.
The best way to keep an eye out for bed bugs is to educate yourself as to what they look like. Penny advises people to consult a pest control expert and to visit reliable Internet sources that reference symptoms, causes, and treatment of bed bugs. If you believe that you may have an infestation, do not let the problem grow to the point where it could affect you or your dog. Make a call and arrange to have an inspector come out and see if bed bugs are the problem. “There are other insects like bat bugs that are commonly mistaken for bed bugs,” says Penny.
When staying in a hotel or traveling, make sure to carefully inspect bedding (specifically the mattress, box spring, and headboard) and luggage for bed bug fecal matter before heading home. If you wake up with any bites on your skin, alert the hotel front desk and have them move you to a different room immediately. If you suspect you came into contact with bed bugs, unpack your suitcase outside your home and throw your clothes into the dryer to kill any possible bugs.
If you suspect that you have a bed bug infestation, make an immediate call to a bed bug detection company to investigate your claim. Perry notes that, “It’s very important that you do not try to solve the problem alone using over the counter chemicals. These can often make the problem worse by causing the bed bugs to scatter. Call a professional first before you do anything.” Once they identify a bed bug problem, your bed bug investigator will then direct you to a reputable pest control company to effectively remove the bed bugs from your home. Swift action is key in resolving the problem before it gets so severe that bed bugs become a nuisance to your dog.