Can Dogs Have Lice?

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Introduction

The word “lice” is enough to make some people’s scalps tingle. The second you read that word, you might have needed to scratch your head. It seems like something you hear more about in school settings than other places, but lice can happen in a variety of places. However, if you or one of your children come home from school with lice, you probably have a very long set of treatment plans to get rid of the vermin. 

Have you ever stopped to think, though, that lice might affect your dog too? It would be a nightmare if your whole family, including your pooch, came down with lice. While dogs can get lice, it’s a different kind of lice. It’s still a big problem if your dog does get lice, though. So, it’s good to be prepared.

Signs Your Dog Might Have Lice

The main thing you’ll notice if your dog gets lice is that they will scratch away at their skin and maybe even bite at it. This is because - you guessed it - lice are itchy. Your poor pup doesn’t have many other tools at their disposal, other than their paws and mouth, to scratch at the lice. Those are the big signs that your dog has lice. Your dog might also do other things like rubbing on furniture to scratch or generally just acting uncomfortable.

Some things you might notice about your pooch, physically, if they have lice might surprise you. You might notice their fur matting or just generally getting dryer. Dogs with lice can even lose their fur. According to the AKC, places dogs with lice can lose fur include the areas around their neck, ears, shoulders, and even their groin or rectum. 

You might also see wounds or bites on your dog. Some dogs can even develop tapeworms or other parasites from the lice. Smaller dogs and puppies can get anemia if they have blood-sucking lice on board, too. So, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for these signs.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog has lice:
  • Scratching
  • Weakness
  • Biting

Other Signs

Here are some physical signs your dog has lice:
  • Matted fur
  • Dry fur
  • Fur falling out around the neck, ears, shoulders, and groin
  • Small wounds or bites
  • Tapeworms or other parasites
  • Anemia in puppies or smaller dogs

History of Dogs and Lice

Unfortunately, lice aren’t just a modern problem, either. Lice have been around for a very long time. Over 5 million years ago, human lice evolved from lice found on chimpanzees, according to licedoctors.com. They go on to say that as early as 107,000 BC, there are records of there being both head and body lice! Gross! Pictures of ancient lice combs can be seen, as well. 

Lice were also different by region, and have been around ever since. It also looks like lice are going to continue hanging on for dear life. 

It appears that dog lice have been around for a long time too, though there isn’t much information about it. 

However, if human lice evolved from chimpanzee lice, it’s probably safe to say that animals have had lice for a while. Lice can live on everything from humans, to dogs, to cats, to even birds. Another interesting tidbit? Lice are actually specific to the species of animal they are found on.

Science Behind Dogs and Lice

That’s right! So, thankfully, you and your pooch can share many things, but lice are not one of them. Dogs can be infected with two kinds of lice. There are chewing lice that actually fall into two separate categories on their own. They are each region specific, but they like to feast on secretions and skin debris. The other kind of lice that affects dogs is sucking lice. You’ve probably already guessed that sucking lice like blood.

Lice can be passed from dog to dog by either contact or sharing items like bedding and brushes. According to the AKC, lice can crawl, but they can’t jump, like a flea, nor can they fly, and they can die off within a few days if they don’t stay on your dog. 

The problem is, that the lice lay eggs, which stick to a dog’s fur. So, even if adult lice fall off and die, there is still the offspring hatching and continuing through the lifecycle. Lice can be found anywhere but are found more often on sicker or older dogs or in high-traffic places like the dog park.

Treating Your Dog for Lice

So, how do you get rid of dog lice? That’s the question of the hour. According to PetMD, you can use “insecticidal sprays and powders” or special shampoos to eradicate the lice. However, it’s important to talk to your vet and get their best recommendation for your pooch. It’s also not a one and done deal. Often, you need to continue to treat the lice more than once to get rid of the eggs. PetMD also mentions if your dog's’ fur is matted, you might need to shave the fur off for the most effective treatment.

Once you’ve treated your dog, it’s also important to make sure your home is protected. Clean your dog’s bedding, toys, brushes, and crate. It’s also important to wash things like rugs, pillows, and blankets that they may have come into contact with. It is better to be safe than sorry. If you don’t do this, your dog could get re-infected, and then you would need to start the whole process over again.

In short, lice are a pain for everyone, humans and dogs alike. At least you can sleep better knowing that the two of you can’t pass them back and forth, though.

How to React to Your Dog Having Lice:

  • Call your vet!
  • Administer all treatments as directed.
  • Wash all of your dog's possessions and clean furniture that your dog sits on.

We Want to Hear About Your Dog Getting Lice!