Sunday, September 1, 2013

Can my cat get bed bugs?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are a type of small insect that can live in bedding and in the nooks and crannies of furniture and flooring.  Although they can be seen with the naked eye, the adult bugs are less than a 1/4" in length, with the immature bugs appearing even smaller.  People encounter bed bugs in taxi cabs, hotel rooms, movie theaters, clothing stores, restaurants, hospitals, cruise ships, etc and can bring them home on their clothing and accessories. 

Bed bugs, unlike fleas and ticks, do not live on their hosts.  Bed bugs prefer to feed on humans but may feed on household pets as well.  Bed bugs feed for 10 minutes at a time and then go back into hiding for about 5 days.  You can view pictures of bed bug bites here.  The adult bed bug can survive without feeding for over a year by becoming dormant. 

Although bed bugs can carry disease, they do not seem capable of transmitting that disease between hosts.  Some pets may be sensitive to the bites and become very itchy.  If your pet is scratching their skin and causing wounds or hair loss, please contact your veterinarian regarding treatment options for the allergic reaction. 

Treatment of pet with topical monthly flea medications are not always effective.  Bathing with insecticidal shampoos may be more effective. 

Clothing and bedding can be washed on hot and put through a dryer cycle to kill the bugs and eggs.  Your house should be treated by a professional exterminator every 2 weeks until the bed bugs are eradicated.   Bed bugs are very difficult to eliminate, especially in cases of large infestations.

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