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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 affect people are not the same as the lice that affect dogs or other animals, and they typically do 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.

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 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 owner may notice itchiness, restlessness, fur loss, or other symptoms mentioned above as an initial sign of possible lice infestation. The owner 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 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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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.

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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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Tillie

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Miniature Schnauzer

dog-age-icon

12 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itching,

Our vet noticed the pup had lice at her first vaccination at 10 weeks. We went following week for treatment with frontline spray. I have been trying to brush her regularly with a bit comb with some difficulty as she doesn't like to stay still. Yesterday I found some very small brown things in hair that came off with comb. Took photo on my phone and zoomed in and they were definitely dead lice. I have been washing bedding and cleaning environment. We are going back to vet this week for another treatment. She still has a lot of eggs on her hair and these do not come off with the comb. Will these eventually come off. Can I do anything else that I am not already doing. She had been itching a lot and her fur has thinned around ears and the inside of her tail. Will this grow back? I would appreciate any help?

Sept. 12, 2018

Tillie's Owner

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Shero

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Pomeranian

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1 Month

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My puppy is too young but found lies like creatures in his fur hes just 1month old to be treated.what should i do to stop sevierty growing lie...willbe harmful to me also

April 12, 2018

Shero's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Whilst four weeks of age is too young for topical spot on products, there are some shampoos which are available for use in puppies of four weeks; you should visit your local pet shop to see what is available in your area as there are different products in different countries, states etc… Many natural non-toxic products may also be useful as would regular brushing with the nit comb and regular cleaning of bedding on a hot wash in the washing machine. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 12, 2018

What was the second part to this post? Was it a vet statement, suggestion, remark from the peanut gallery or another stupid remark from Donald Trump. You need to consider having someone edit your Q & A segment.

Aug. 26, 2018

Never A.


Can a cacao(theobroma) can removed lice Dr..... Other study said that shampoo can removed lice are those containing d-limonen for adult dogs.

Aug. 20, 2018

Kimberly P.

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Drogo

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German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Frequent Itching And Biting , Mild Outburst

I have two dogs a GSD and a mixed breed. About few weeks before my older one the mixed breed started showing itchiness scratching and biting followed by skin outbursts. I had him treated with ticks and fleas shampoo and neem as told by my breeder. His kennel was also cleaned . It seems like the number of lice flea or whatever was present on his body has reduced. But now my younger one GSD too has started showing same symptoms but not that aggressively . Today I saw a number of lice on his fur it doesn't seems like it's causing that much disturbance as there is no skin outbursts but how do I treat my GSD ? It's pretty hot climate now in here as I am from India . I had his long coat cut short .

March 6, 2018

Drogo's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Cutting the hair short and bathing regularly with a lice shampoo is the best course of action, you should also apply a topical spot-on product which covers against lice; all bedding should be washed frequently in a washing machine on a high temperature wash and any other surfaces steam cleaned and/or sprayed with a fipronil spray. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.bayerdvm.com/products/advantage-ii-for-dogs/ www.msdvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/lice/lice-in-dogs-and-cats

March 6, 2018

I have had his hair cut short and bathed him with shampoo for lice. Also I make sure that his coat is combed regularly.

March 9, 2018

Drogo's Owner

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Sufur

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Husky

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Fur Loss

My mixed breed dog (Husky, Great Dane, Collie, Norwegian Elk Hound) was diagnosed with lice three weeks ago. He got a treatment with a selamectin topical solution at the vet's clinic and then another one at home two weeks later. This is week three and there are still numerous nits on the shafts of his fur when I brush him daily. How long will it be before the nits disappear? He is not itchy (never was) and the only indication that he has lice is the nits on his fur.

Feb. 27, 2018

Sufur's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. The nits are actually the egg sacs of the lice, and are very sticky on the hair shafts. Sufur may need a third treatment to get rid of the rest of them, and it would be best to have a follow up with your veterinarian to determine if his recovery is what is expected, or if he needs another treatment.

Feb. 27, 2018

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Archer

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Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Scratching A Bit

I took my golden retrieve in today for a bath and trim. They said he has lice. what is the treatment. He has been scratching a little but I thought it was an allergy. Very healthy What is the treatment.

Jan. 31, 2018

Archer's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

There are various shampoos which can be used against lice, once a dog has been bathed then a topical spot on products containing either selamectin, imidacloprid or fipronil may be used. Spraying of surfaces with a fipronil spray is beneficial and washing any bedding on a hot wash in a washing machine is also best to kill any lice. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/lice/lice-in-dogs-and-cats

Jan. 31, 2018

I been doing this not helpful going to Vetanraian today at 7:30 am.one thing my dog bites she will not let me comb her only bathing is what she let's me do I am scared cause the lice has given her worms now she just pooped and saw just one but I am scared.

April 17, 2018

Juanita T.

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bella

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pariah indian

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Severe Reaction ,Difficulty Walking

doc. my dog had fleas and i used a permetherin shampoo and i was extra careful while bathing her. There was no ingestion or even licking and it was nicely washed off with like 20 buckets. yet , my dog had a strong reaction to it. After 12 hours she could not even get up and when she did get up, her gait was slow like a 90 year old human. anyhow, i rushed her to the vet for an antitoxin and drip. she recovered well after that .so doc, if u could advice on some natural treatment to keep lice and fleas away. thank u so much doc :)

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Winnie

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Maltese

dog-age-icon

1 Day

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Itching

Hi My Maltese has been itching herself but not excessively. However, we found two black bugs crawling across her fur and skin that looked like dog lice. We shaved her since she had a lot of matted fur. What should we do now?

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Moe

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Mixed

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Bitting, Itchiness, Scratching

Hi I have 2 dogs, one is an 11 yr old male mix pekinginse/chichuaua his sister is a 3 and 1/2 chocolate lab. some how my chocolate got chewing louse from a stray dog and she gave it to my dog I have nver seen a sucking louse before and thought that it was a different type of flea. I removed all of the sucking louses and had no idea that they had layed their eggs on both dogs before long my two dogs where infested with dog lice. its been very diffilicut trying to rid these pests as I was doing research and I read an article in which it stated that dog lice dont bite people. well I am here to tell you that YES they do bite pepole and suck your blood. I have several bites as does my husband. so a word of caution dont underestimate dog lice they do bite and suck on human blood. The bites are small as like a mosquito bite good thing I has anti itch cream after a while the redness and itchiness went away.

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Blacky

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normal

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Lice

My Dog having bad experience with lice in first place like 1-5 months he dont have it already but now he's reaching 1 yr old he have many lice every week we take a bath our dog 2 times and after we get the lice on his body and put it on bottle full of detergent also known here in philippines (zonrox) so the eggs not scattered but after few days the lice become x2 we really doing our best just to take all the lice but we failed please help us, My dog is not highbreed or whatelse my dog is just normal but i really really love my dog i hope you will help us and help us where can we buy those shampoo, thankyou in advance.

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Mai

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Golden Retriever

dog-age-icon

1 Year

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itchy
Scratching

My 1 year old golden has been scratching intensely and we found adult lice. She has had a flea bath and frontline plus treatment over the weekend but is still scratching like crazy. All bedding and floor has been cleaned. How long before treatment kills the adult lice and the scratching decrease?

Lice Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$450