Bed Bugs and Pet Safety - What You Need to Know

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"Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite!" At one time, this was just a spooky thing to say when you tucked in the kids, but it was always just a cute but meaningless threat after bed bugs were mostly eradicated in developed countries. If you live in New York City, however, you know all too well that these little pestering parasites are back on the loose, attacking Abercrombie and Fitch, scaling the Empire State Building, and even haunting the Hamptons. (There's no escape, people.)

Though most of us would be happy to see these vexing vermin on the endangered-species list, bed bugs are quickly becoming an unwelcome fact of life, not just in NYC, but in a number of major cities across the nation -- biting both pets and humans alike.

The Stats: According to a recent study done by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, 95 percent of the U.S. exterminators surveyed reported encountered a bed bug infestation in the past year. MSNBC.com reports that bed bug populations have increased 500% in recent years.

What They Are: According to the Michael F. Potter, Extension Entomologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, bed bugs are small, brownish, flattened insects that feed solely on the blood of animals and humans. "Adult bed bugs are about 3/16-inch long and reddish-brown, with oval, flattened bodies. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks or cockroaches." He explains that the bugs are "efficient hitchhikers and are usually transported in on luggage, clothing, beds, furniture, and other items." They tend to congregate in the bed, hiding within seams and crevices in the mattress and headboard and usually bite people at night when they are sleeping.

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