Paris Fashion Week is in full swing, and while you’d expect the latest trends and couture creations to be the talk of the town, a more... unsavory subject is taking center stage. Rumor has it, Paris is dealing with a bed bug infestation! And no, that’s not the name of a new haute couture line.
As this news spreads faster than the latest runway look, pet parents globally are wondering: Can our dogs and cats spread these unwelcome critters? Let's dive into the details.
The bed bug basics
Before we get into our pets' role in the bed bug drama, it's essential to understand what bed bugs are. They're small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bed bugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. While they don't fly, they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings.
Their bites can cause itching and inflammation, and their very presence can take a huge mental toll on those dealing with infestations. Bed bugs were almost eradicated from developed countries in the 1940s but have made a resurgence in recent years.
Can pets carry bed bugs?
The short answer is yes, but it's not that straightforward.
Bed bugs are more inclined to use humans as their primary source of food. However, in the absence of humans or in densely infested areas, they might decide that Fluffy or Fido will do just fine. But here's the thing: while bed bugs might feed on our pets, they don't prefer to live on them.
Body Temperature: Dogs and cats have higher body temperatures than humans. While bed bugs love a warm place, our pets might be a bit too toasty for their liking.
Fur Barrier: Unlike fleas and ticks, bed bugs aren’t equipped to navigate through a jungle of fur. They prefer to have direct access to skin, which is why they usually target humans.
Behavioral Patterns: Our pets, especially cats, are meticulous groomers. This grooming behavior can deter bed bugs from taking up residence on them.
However, pets can inadvertently transport bed bugs from one place to another. If a dog or cat lies down on a bed bug-infested bed or couch, some bugs might hitch a ride.
When the pet moves to another location, those bugs could be transferred. But again, this is not the primary way bed bugs spread.
Addressing bed bug bites on your pets
If you suspect your pet has fallen victim to bed bugs or has been bitten, it's essential to act quickly. First, inspect your pet's bedding and favorite lounging spots for signs of these pests. It's crucial to wash all their bedding in hot water and consider vacuuming the area thoroughly.
If you find evidence of bites on your pet's skin — typically small, red, itchy bumps — a visit to the vet might be in order. They can provide treatments or ointments to alleviate itching and reduce inflammation.
Additionally, the vet can guide you on further steps to ensure the environment is free from bed bugs, safeguarding your pet's health and comfort.
Remember, while it's rare for pets to transport bed bugs, maintaining a clean environment is beneficial for everyone in the household.
How do bed bugs spread?
Now that we've established pets aren't the main culprits, how do these critters spread? Most commonly, bed bugs travel on luggage, clothing, and used beds or couches. Their flat bodies make it easy for them to fit into tiny spaces, and they tend to live in groups.
So, if the bed bug buzz during Paris Fashion Week has you worried about your next hotel stay, it's your suitcase and belongings you should be more concerned about than your pet.
Preventing and dealing with infestations
Whether you're a globe-trotting fashionista or a homebody, it's essential to know how to prevent and deal with potential infestations.
Inspect New Environments: Before settling into a hotel room or new apartment, do a quick check. Look for bugs, rusty-colored blood spots, or the bugs' excrement in beds, couches, and chairs.
Keep Your Luggage Off the Floor: When traveling, use luggage racks or keep your bags in the bathtub until you've inspected your room.
Wash and Heat: Bed bugs hate heat. Wash your clothing and belongings in hot water and use a dryer on the highest heat setting.
Vacuum Frequently: This can help to pick up any bugs before they settle in and start reproducing.
Be Wary of Second-Hand Furniture: Inspect used beds, couches, or soft furnishings meticulously before bringing them home.
Regularly Check Your Pets' Bedding: Even though they're not the primary transporters, it's still a good idea to check and wash your pets' bedding in hot water regularly.
Don't bug me!
While the glitz and glamour of Paris Fashion Week might be overshadowed by the city's bed bug woes, it's an excellent reminder to be vigilant. Our pets might not be the main culprits in spreading these critters, but they can play a minor role in their transportation.
By staying informed and taking preventive measures, you can ensure that the only buzz around you is the latest fashion trends, not pesky pests.
Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.