By Anna Graves
You got home from vacation two days ago and were easing back into same old, same old until you found a bedbug on your dog.
The week’s worth of relaxation vanishes as you tense and fume – “All that money I paid to board him at that fancy kennel and they send him home with bedbugs?”
Calm down, don’t blame the boarding kennel… or the dog. Odds are you brought the bedbug home from that fancy hotel you stayed in. And those mosquito bites on your leg? They’re bed bug bites.
More and more people are returning home from vacations with unwanted souvenirs — bed bugs. Although hotels seem a perfect source (after all, they are “bed” bugs), they may very well have hitched a ride home on that sweat shirt you bought, or hopped on your carry-on bag in the plane’s overhead bin. Bed bugs only stay on their host long enough to feast, then they hop off and can spend up to three days digesting all that yummy blood. When it’s time for their next meal, there’s always another warm-blooded, carbon dioxide-breathing meal in the area… and in your house, it happened to be the poor dog.
The Bite – Bed Bug or Flea?
So what can you expect? Chances are he’s been bitten, and he’ll be scratching — just like you are. But unlike a flea infestation, it won’t be constant since bed bugs spend less time on him than fleas do. As for the bites, look for individual bites — swollen, hard, and red–occurring in linear rows rather than the flea’s clusters of dots. Although he’s suffering the same intense itchiness as he does from flea bites, lucky for him, you’re serving as his flea collar.
Bed bugs do feed on blood, but it’s exhaled carbon dioxide vapors that attract them. Like high tech weapons, they use infra-red sensors and antennae to zero in on a good place to drill. Fortunately for your dog, they prefer human’s carbon dioxide signature and the fact that humans don’t have a fur barrier to breach. So if you’re within 50 to 75 feet of the dog, he’ll usually be passed over.
Plan of Action
So now your head’s reeling. Something has to be done, but what?
- Grab all those sheets off the bed, as well as the dog’s bedding, and toss it in the dryer. That’s right – the dryer. Fleas can’t stand temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave them tumbling for at least 10-20 minutes.
- Consult your veterinarian to find out a safe, effective treatment. Those topical treatments you apply to ward off fleas and ticks won’t do a thing for bed bugs.
- Call in the professionals. Your home needs to be treated. New York City where even chain clothing stores have closed for fumigation, has published information on choosing an exterminator including a list of questions to ask on NYC.gov.
If you have a cat, bedbugs are not adverse to hopping on kitty in a pinch. PetsAdviser.com has advice for you as well as an informative video. But do be sure to call your vet for treatment advice since the cat’s chemistry is extremely sensitive when it comes to parasite treatments.
Anna Graves is a freelance writer who lives on a farm in upstate New York.