Lice in Dogs

Lice in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Lice in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Lice?

Dog infestation with lice is known as “canine pediculosis.” Lice are insects that live on the skin and fur of an affected pet.
A “louse” is the term for a single insect. Lice are external parasites that chew on the skin or suck the blood, causing skin irritation, itchiness, and possible anemia in severe infestations. Untreated pets can develop pediculosis over the entire body. Infestations are more common in young pups, debilitated/malnourished animals or geriatric animals in unsanitary conditions. Infestations are not common in clean, healthy pets. Lice are tiny, species-specific external parasites that live on the skin and hair coat of dogs and other mammals. The lice that affects people is not the same as the lice that affects dogs or other animals, and the lice typically does not transfer between different species. They are easily killed by topical insecticides. Some of the more common insecticides used to treat pediculosis include lime-sulfur, pyrethrins and pyrethroids.

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Lice Average Cost

From 289 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$450

Symptoms of Lice in Dogs

Symptoms of lice infestation in dogs can include one or more of the following:

  • Itchiness
  • Scratching, rubbing and/or biting at skin
  • Restlessness
  • Skin redness, irritation
  • Dry coat
  • Matted fur
  • Hair loss – often around neck, ears, upper back, groin and rectum
  • Anemia – more often seen with severe infestation
  • Lethargy, weight loss, poor development in severely infested pups

Types

There are two species of lice that infest dogs:

  • Trichodectes canis: The chewing louse. These insects grip the host’s fur with their large, wide mouthparts and chew the dead skin cells of the dog host. This species is found throughout the world and can serve as a vector for the canine tapeworm.
  • Linognathus setosus: The sucking louse. These insects grip host hair with their claws and have narrow mouthparts for sucking blood through the skin. This species is found throughout the world and can be more common in long-hair breeds and colder climates.
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Causes of Lice in Dogs

  • Both types of lice can be transferred between dogs through direct contact or contact with contaminated objects.
  • Locations where dogs are in close contact such as dog parks, boarding kennels, grooming facilities and animal shelters are all possible places pets can contract lice.
  • Dogs that share kennels, bedding, furniture, or outdoor space with affected dogs are at increased risk for lice infestation.
  • You may wonder, can humans get dog lice? Thankfully, the answer is no. Lice are species-specific and do not feed on animals of other species. People cannot get lice from other dogs and dogs cannot get lice from people. Cats and other animals are likewise not susceptible to dog lice.
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Diagnosis of Lice in Dogs

A pet parent may notice itchiness, restlessness, fur loss, or other symptoms mentioned above as an initial sign of possible lice infestation. The pet parent or groomer may see adult lice on the skin or the eggs of lice, “nits,” on the pet’s fur. Adult lice can be 1-2.5mm in length and look like spots of dirt on the skin. Nits look more like white sand granules stuck along the hair shaft. Lice can be difficult to notice until a full infestation has developed.

The type of infestation is diagnosed by a veterinarian by examining a sample of dog fur or scraping of the skin for nits and adult lice under the microscope. Chewing lice are identified by their large mouthparts used for chewing and grasping fur. Sucking lice are identified by their narrow mouthparts and slightly more developed claws.

Diagnosis is based on reported clinical symptoms and visual identification of lice or nits. Most lice in an infestation will be found under clumped or matted fur or along the head, neck, shoulders, groin and tail. Lice seek out moisture and will often locate themselves near skin abrasions or the anus.

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Treatment of Lice in Dogs

Infestation with lice can be treated fairly easily. Once your pet has been diagnosed with pediculosis, the veterinarian will supply you with instructions for treating the infestation and preventing further infestation. It is important to remember that merely bathing your pet will not rid it of a lice infestation. Lice hold tight to the skin and hair and will not be removed or killed with soap and water.

Topical Treatments

There are numerous shampoos, sprays and powders effective in killing lice. The effective ingredient may be:

  • Lime-sulfur
  • Pyrethrin
  • Pyrethroid

Flea treatments are also effective in preventing and treating a lice infestation. Some products that may be recommended by the veterinarian include:

  • Fripronil
  • Imidacloprid
  • Selamectin

Fur Shaving

Clumped or matted fur may require shaving. Shaving will expose the skin and ensure that lice are put in contact with the insecticidal treatment.

Treatment Duration

Because of the life cycle of the parasite, it may be necessary to treat your pet more than once with topical shampoos, powders or sprays. Adult females live approximately 4 weeks and lay eggs daily. Nits hatch within 1-2 weeks. The nymph becomes an egg-laying adult within 2-3 weeks.

The initial treatment will kill the adult lice. However, nits are not susceptible to insecticides and will remain on the pet. Treatment every 1 to 2 weeks for at least 4 weeks should be sufficient to kill all hatched nymphs.

Treatment Risks

Certain dogs, pregnant dogs and young puppies can be susceptible to insecticides. Be sure to follow the veterinarian’s instructions on treatment. Keep the treatment products in a safe place away from children and pets and wear gloves when applying them. Although people cannot get dog lice, remove and wash your clothing immediately after treating your furry buddy. Wash all towels used in the process as soon as you complete each treatment session.

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Worried about the cost of Lice treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Lice in Dogs

Affected pets should be quarantined and have no contact with other dogs until the full treatment regimen is complete.

To prevent reinfection, throw away or clean any place where your pet spends time. Carpets, floors, rugs, furniture and outdoor surfaces should be cleaned thoroughly. Throw away or wash all pet bedding. Lice survive only 3-7 days off of the host, so unwashable items can be packed in sealed plastic bags for 4-6 weeks (allowing time for all eggs to hatch and die). Clean all grooming brushes, combs, crates, leashes, collars and dog apparel.

Dogs severely infested with sucking lice may require supplementation with iron, vitamins and minerals to address anemia (low red blood cell levels). Most monthly flea treatments will prevent future lice infestation.

The symptoms of a lice infestation can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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Lice Average Cost

From 289 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$450

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Lice Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Chihuahua

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Seven Years

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19 found helpful

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19 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Dogs are scratching all the time coat seems oily,a few days oil is gone see no fleas or flea dirt use flea comb with the hair is fine when I take small parts comb upwords it's like hair has tangles all in it I look at the hair that came off has white specks,use magnifying app see specks,web looking in comb and long nude to yellow color only can be seen with a magnifying +blackish/reddish spots on skin +red cigar shape around vulva

Jan. 12, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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19 Recommendations

Hello, your dog could have microscopic mites or other parasites causing this. He could also have a skin infection. It would be best for your vet to look at your dog. YOu can try an oatmeal shampoo bath and bendaryl. The dosage of Benadryl is 1mg/pound twice a day.

Jan. 13, 2021

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Pomeranian

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75 Years

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16 found helpful

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16 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Lice

i gave the Pill Simparica. What do I use to clean the floors . I washed all bedding in hot water and hot dryer. Now what do they sleep on LOL.

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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16 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. Lice are killed quite easily with topical treatments. Washing all of the bedding in hot water and mopping the floors with regular cleaner should take care of them in the environment.

Oct. 22, 2020

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Lice Average Cost

From 289 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,500

Average Cost

$450

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