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Wayne Post
  • Preventing problems with bed bugs

  • Dr. Larry Silberg answers your questions about pets.

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  • Q I have heard a lot about bed bugs recently in the news. Can my pets get bed bugs?
    A Bed bugs are a human problem that can involve pets. They have become a national concern, having now been found wherever people move in and out frequently, such as hotels, college dorms and apartment complexes. No one is sure why this has become such a widespread problem but increased traveling and pesticide resistance may be two important factors.  
    Bed bugs inhabit our environment and feed on us and our pets. To some they resemble ticks but ticks remain attached to their host un-like the bed bug that feeds and then returns to its environment. The bite is itchy and may cause a circular raised lesion where the bite has occurred. People are often bitten on the torso and should not be confused with flea bites which occur mainly on the lower limbs. They are fast and not always visible, although at times both adults and the immature stages can be seen. The adult appears reddish brown and is the size of an apple seed. The immature stages appear white to yellow in color. Both stages are most active at night when the lights are off.  
    Since they are excellent hiders, it is indirect evidence that leads to a diagnosis of bed bug infestation. Tell tale signs such as blood spots on sheets and bed bug feces that stain an area should raise strong suspicion that they are around. The mattress, framing, and bed board should be examined. Baseboards, crevices, curtains, clothing and electrical outlets should be included. All pet bedding and toys should also be checked. A magnifying glass to identify feces or the insect is very helpful.
    Although their bite can cause irritation and itching, bed bugs do not transmit disease like fleas and ticks can.  Our pets can be bitten as well but it is not known whether the bug can be carried on the coat and be spread as our pets move around.  
    Although there are over the counter products to treat bed bugs, the best, easiest, and safest way to eliminate them is the use of an experienced exterminator. Often more then one treatment by a professional is needed. Topical flea and tick products for dogs and cats will not eliminate bed bugs. A reputable exterminator will examine the premises, confirm the presence of bed bugs, and will offer the best and safest treatment options.  
    It is not necessary to throw away your pet’s toys or bedding. Thorough washing and drying at high temperatures will eliminate all stages of the bed bug.  
    It has become important that after traveling all luggage and clothes be inspected when returning home and items that can be washed and dried should be. Luggage can be placed in sealable plastic bags and can be frozen or treated at high temperatures. In spite of all this bed bugs may escape these treatments and can infect you and your pet’s environment. If in doubt, contact a professional service to inspect, and if need be, treat appropriately.  
    Page 2 of 2 - As with any questions or concerns regarding your pet’s health, your veterinarian is still the best source of reliable information.  
    Do you have a pet care question for Dr. Silberg? Send your question by e-mail to askdrsilberg@yahoo.com.

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