GLENDALE, AZ - A Glendale woman is warning travelers to be extra cautious when bringing pets to a hotel after her cat got a costly infection she believes was caused by bedbugs.
The woman, who asked to be identified only as Elena, says she checked into a Holiday Inn in Fountain Hills back in July. Her air conditioner at home was broken, she said, and she brought her two cats with her.
After staying in the hotel room, Elena says she started itching. She showed ABC15 pictures of her neck covered in red bumps. She also showed us a photo of a tiny bug on a pillow.
After checking out, Elena says she got a checkup. According to medical documents she provided us, a doctor at North Valley Family Medicine examined her three days later and determined she had bedbug bites.
Elena says her cat was in worse condition.
"I noticed she was starting to pull her hair and itching," Elena said. "I said let's see in a couple of weeks if it gets any better. Within that time, it had gotten much worse. There were bald spots throughout the cat's body and (pus)."
Elena took her cat to Apollo North Animal Hospital in Glendale. Dr. Patricia Bennett treated the cat. Bennett tells me the cat had "damage due to scratching an itch." Bennett said there were "scabs, bumps, and lesions" from "head to toe."
Bennett says she cannot prove this was caused by a bedbug but it is possible. Bennett also said she had examined the cat before and it did not have a pre-existing skin condition.
Should owners be concerned? Dr. Raegan Wells, with Emergency Animal Clinic in Gilbert, who was not involved in this case, says it is unlikely a bedbug caused the cat's reaction.
"I'm not willing to say that it is impossible for a dog or cat to be bitten by a bedbug but it's a very unlikely problem that a dog or cat would be bitten by a bedbug," Wells said. "It's a problem in the environment and bedbugs prefer humans as the host."
Wells said she has seen clients who thought their pet had been bitten by bed bugs but, in each case, it turned out to be something else. According to Wells, she has not seen an actual case of a bedbug biting a house pet.
We contacted Holiday Inn for comment. Michael Lvov, a manager, told me over the phone, that the hotel did not have bedbugs. Lvov said they hired an external company to inspect several hotel rooms after Elena's complaint. He provided documents showing that there was no evidence of bedbugs.
According to Johnny Diloné, Media and Community Relations Manager with the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department, MCES also did an inspection August 2. The inspector found no evidence to support the allegations made in the complaint, Diloné said.
MCES says there are no records of any insect, pest, or rodent violations at the hotel based on a record search from 2005 to present day.
After hundreds of dollars in vet bills and weeks of treatment, Elena has her own opinion. She advises other pet owners not to travel with their dogs or cats.
"Just put them in a kennel or take them to the vet," she said.
If you do travel with pets, here's some advice:
- Treat them for fleas and ticks ahead of time. Wells says this is a more common threat to pets.
- Research the hotel. Wells says bedbugs are an environmental problem.
- Also, give your pets extra attention. Travel may cause anxiety in animals.