You’ve noticed your dog itching furiously lately. You can even see patches of bare skin, many coming complete with small scabs, where your fur-kids’ hair has begun to fall away. You might just have a lice problem on your hands. What are you going to do now?
Canine lice are small parasites living on a dog’s skin, feeding by chewing on the skin of the dog or sucking blood (depending on the type). If not controlled/treated, they can grow to become an infestation. Not as common as dog fleas, these are most often (but not always) found in conditions where sanitation is poor.
They are small, wingless and flat, and there are two types. The first ‘chewing lice’ survive by eating skin secretions and debris, and come in two ‘sub forms’ (one being rare in North America). The second, sucking lice, feed off of blood.
You can’t get lice from your dog, nor can your dog get lice from you. Lice are specific to the species they feed off of; pet lice won’t feed on human blood. However, there is a type of lice that does feed on human blood.
If your dog has contracted a case of pet lice, but you maintain a clean and sanitary house, he/she probably got it from an area populated by other dogs. Common places where your dog might get lice (though lice are still uncommon) are animal shelters, dog parks, boarding kennels, or grooming facilities.
Symptoms of Dogs with Lice
- Frequent itching, scratching
- Coat appears dry, scruffy and loses sheen
- Hair loss; common areas- neck, groin, ears, shoulders, rectal area
- Small wounds or infections
- In extreme cases, or in puppies/small dogs- anemia
● Small dogs/ puppies, or those with especially severe cases, might suffer from anemia due to blood loss.
● Sucking lice don’t move around as much as chewing lice, embedding mouthparts in the dog’s skin.
● A flea comb will help identify canine lice.
● Tapeworms and bacteria are more easily spread by lice.
Your first line of defense should be regular, monthly flea/tick preventative which also treats for lice. Assuming you have done this, lice should never be a problem in the first place. These days, most animal lice are only found on feral, sick, old or stray animals.
- All dogs in a household need to be treated, even if only one has lice.
- Clean all household items associated with your dog, or your dog may have touched.
- Clean house repeatedly.
- If you care for multiple animals, consider quarantining those infected for the duration.
In severe cases, matted hair probably needs to be clipped. Flea combs are useful in removing both live and dead lice. Topical store bought ointments can be used, and your veterinarian can further prescribe any treatment necessary.
Don’t stop with your pet. Wash all bedding, clothing, or anything else your dog may have come into contact with! Usually lice will favor old, weak dogs, or those that live in unsanitary conditions.
Dog Lice Shampoo
Believe it or not, several flea shampoos are also effective against lice. However, dog lice shampoo shouldn’t be your end all, best option and only alternative. Shampoo won’t penetrate the eggs, which is why manufacturers often recommend shampooing/bathing every day. Where daily bathing will take care of your problem, it will also continually remove natural oils from your dog’s skin.
Weekly shampooing/bathing with these home remedies for pet lice might be recommended for about six weeks to fully take care of your lice problem. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully!
- Consider investing in a specially made come particularly designed with pet lice in mind.
1. Can dogs get lice from humans / animals?
Lice are species specific, so humans can’t contract lice from dogs, or vice versa. However, humans can get their own type of lice. Dogs can get lice from other dogs, but it must be through direct contact (usually), because unlike fleas, lice have very limited mobility. Their movement is limited to crawling, as they can’t hop, jump or fly.
2. How do I get rid of dog lice in the house?
Thankfully, adult lice will only live for a few days if they fall of a host (again, unlike fleas), so your first step is to cut off their food source. Treat your dog with flea/tick preventative monthly. Remember, pet lice will only feed off of pets and not humans (human lice being a different matter, but not the subject of this article).
Now that they have no food source, adult lice will die within a few days. To get rid of larvae, make sure to vacuum every carpeted surface thoroughly, clean/wash all clothing, and spray your couch/cushions with something developed to kill lice. In other words, make sure to clean very thoroughly. Without a meal, your problem will go away on its own.
3. My child has head lice. Is there a chance he/she got it from the family pet?
Since lice are species specific, there is no way your children can get lice from your pets (or vise versa).
4. Are there chewables effective against lice, fleas and ticks?
Thanks to veterinary advancements, we now have chewables that won’t only prevent heartworm, fleas, ticks AND lice, they will kill adults, larvae and eggs. Flea collars often don’t work nearly as well, treating only the surrounding area, and bathing won’t kill eggs. Topical ointments work well for prevention, but are often difficult to apply underneath heavy, thick coats.
Talk about your problem with your pet’s veterinarian in order to discover the best treatment options!
Video: How to remove fleas and ticks from your house and your pets
The most common additional parasite lice can transmit/carry is tapeworm, offering problems of its own. In order to prevent any of this, especially lice, treat your pet with a monthly flea/tick & heartworm preventative! Keep the living area clean, and use caution around closely populated areas with many other animals.
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