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Protect your pets from bed bugs while traveling

Monday, July 23, 2012

If you like to travel with your pet, be careful they don't bring something extra back home.

There has been a lot of news lately about a growing bed bug problem, and the summer months are their busiest time of year. But there are things you can do to protect your four-legged friend.

Charlotte Reed loves to travel with her dog, but worries about exposing her pet to bed bugs when on the road.

It's a valid concern, says research entomologist Jeffery White of Bedbug Central. In fact, a recent survey found 67 percent of pest management companies have treated bed bugs in hotel rooms. And he says all pets are fair game.

"Dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs. Any pet, for instance, could be a food source for a bed bug," White said.

And while bed bugs don't tend to live on pets long term - like fleas and ticks - that doesn't mean your pet can't bring them home, warns American Veterinary Medical Association's Kimberly May.

"Pets can transport bedbugs, just mechanically, the bed bug hitches a ride on your pet and gets into your house," May said.

Or, more commonly, they can snuggle up in your pet's bedding.

"Their carrier could have a bed bug inside of it and that's how you introduce bed bugs into your home," White said.

So how can you keep your pets and your home safe?

First, experts say, when traveling, thoroughly inspect your hotel room for bugs before you bring your pet through the door. The bugs are visible to the naked eye.

"One of the most common areas that you want to inspect when you stay in a hotel room is either the headboard, where bed bugs will typically hide, or the bottom of the box spring," White said.

Second, consider leaving your pets' bedding in the bathroom, where there will be less chance of bugs.

"Keep it separate. Keep it closed if you can," May said.

And consider treating the carrier with a pet-safe bed bug repellent spray.

"I always spray the carrier prior to leaving my house," Reed said.

When you check out, make sure to examine your pet's bedding thoroughly and take further precautions once you get home.

"Immediately launder it in the hottest water that you can. If there are any rips or holes in it, you want to discard it," May said.

And consider laundering your pet as well.

"Have them bathed and groomed before you even take them to your house," May said.

While none of these precautions can guarantee to keep your pets and home bed-bug free, experts say they can cut down the risk.

Unlike fleas and ticks, bed bugs aren't known to carry disease. Their bites are merely irritating and itchy to pets and people.

Also, while there's no research to prove that flea and tick sprays can help keep pets bed bug free, experts say it can't hurt to use them and will at least keep your pet protected from other, more dangerous parasites.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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