ASPCA Provides Guidance for Pet Owners During Bedbug Epidemic

August 25, 2010

NEW YORK—Plaguing local homes and businesses alike, the recent bedbug epidemic has many people concerned about the well-being of their families, homes, and even pets. For worried pet owners, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) provides valuable information about these insects and how to protect pets from an infestation.

Bedbugs—a member of the insect family Cimicidae—are small, semi-nocturnal, blood-sucking parasitic insects that feed primarily on human blood. Although they have been known to afflict warm-blooded animals such as dogs and cats, mice and birds are more commonly affected.

"It is important for pet owners to know that bedbugs do not live on the body of their host," says Dr. Tina Wismer, the ASPCA's Senior Director of Veterinary Outreach and Education. "Bedbugs generally prefer locations where people sleep, such as bed frames, mattresses or carpeting. Therefore, it's not necessary to physically treat your pet for bedbugs."

Exterminating bedbugs can be extremely difficult, as they are capable of surviving up to a year without feeding, can adapt to a wide range of temperatures, and often live in extremely small cracks or crevices in furniture, walls, or floors. Vacuuming carpets and washing bedding—including pets' bedding—may help reduce an infestation. However, to effectively rid one's home of bedbugs, most experts suggest extermination by a pesticide.

"Perhaps the biggest danger pets could face from bedbugs is the use of pesticides to exterminate them," Dr. Wismer adds. "However, the chemical pyrethrin, which is often used in eradicating bedbugs, can be safe if used correctly around pets. Pet owners should discuss safety precautions with their exterminator or even with their vet before beginning the treatment process."

The ASPCA suggests contacting a professional exterminator to eliminate bedbugs from the home. For those who decide to treat their homes themselves, the ASPCA strongly recommends precisely following all directions and precautions outlined on the pesticide product's label. Typically this involves keeping pets out of the treated area until the insecticide product is dry and the area is well ventilated.

Last year, toxicologists at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center fielded nearly 30,000 calls related to insecticides. If your dog or cat is exposed to a potentially toxic substance, contact your local veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance.