By Darlene Stott
Published: 07/13/2017, edited: 09/07/2022
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You’ve probably gotten letters from your child’s school. The one that makes you cringe. Head lice have been found at school, and your child might have it too. Maybe you’ve seen the tiny yellow nits, or eggs, and the longer rice-like adult lice on your child’s scalp. That’s one thing to worry about. You might be washing everything in your home and checking your other children and yourself to ensure the lice hasn’t been passed on from one person to another within your home.
Imagine as you are cleaning your child’s clothing and bedding, and combing through their hair trying to find every last little bugger, your dog saunters into the room. Uh-Oh. Do you have to search and comb through Fido’s fur too?
Can dogs get head lice from humans?
Short answer: NO!
Head lice prefer a nice warm temperature; not one too hot or too cold. They prefer the temperature of humans. Luckily for you and your pooch, if anyone in your family comes home with head lice, you do not have to worry about your dog getting them too. It would make sense that tiny blood-sucking insects such as fleas or ticks could jump from your bodies to your dog’s body. And if you have children, they are probably rubbing their heads all over your dog with puppy hugs. But lice cannot be transferred to your dog from humans.
Does my dog have head lice?
Though there are specific types of lice for various animals, dogs cannot get or carry the same lice humans get. There is always a chance lice have fallen from a human’s head onto your dog or onto surfaces in your home. However, the lice we find on human heads will not survive for long on any surface other than a human head. If you were to find lice on your dog, it would not be human head lice. If by a small chance a louse, singular for lice, found its way onto your dog, it would only survive for about twenty-four hours. Remember, human head lice need the temperature of humans to survive.
Our pets can get their own species-specific lice, though. And when this happens, you need to treat your dog’s lice much like the lice humans get. Wash and sanitize the dog’s bedding with hot water and detergent. Use a vet-prescribed lice removal product on your dog. Do not assume the treatments used on humans will work on your dog. Your veterinarian can assist with any parasites your dog may have. But, don’t worry, your dog’s lice won’t transfer to your and your family just as human head lice won’t transfer to your dog.
If you think your dog might have other skin parasites, you can read further here.
How do I treat my dog's lice?
If your dog is showing lice on their skin or in their fur, have your veterinarian check to ensure proper treatment. Dogs can get various parasites and suffer from many skin conditions. Lice typically found on dogs are usually found on dogs who are not healthy and do not live in a loving home. Most often, dogs who have lice are stray dogs living in poor conditions, not family pets. If you suspect your pooch has dog lice, have them seen by your veterinarian for the correct diagnosis and treatment.
How is lice similar in dogs and humans?
Each species has its own type of lice to deal with. Humans cannot contract lice from dogs and dogs cannot get lice from humans. Cats, too, have their own species of lice. No matter what species of lice you are dealing with, each one has commonalities.
- Lice can be irritating, causing itchy skin
- Lice do not carry diseases as fleas and ticks do
- Lice are often misdiagnosed in humans and pets
- Lice require a certain temperature and environment in which to thrive, making each type of lice not transferrable from pet to human or from human to pet
How is lice different in dogs and humans?
Though each species can carry its own kind of lice, human head lice are easier transferred from human to human than dog lice are from dog to dog. Humans can be hygiene conscious and still contract lice, whereas lice are not usually found in well-maintained and cared for dogs. Dog lice may be found on your dog, but usually, lice are found in a particular demographic for dogs:
- Stray dogs
- Dogs with poor health
- Dogs left outside in unsanitary conditions
- Dogs who are left unbathed for lengthy amounts of time
- Dogs who do not have proper veterinary care
A family dog is itchy and scratching a lot more than normal. A young child comes home from school with a note from the school nurse and white dots in their hair.
A frantic mother and father wash all the bedding in the house, vacuum and shampoo the floors, and begin to research all they can about how to rid the child’s hair of lice, protect their family from the lice spreading, and keep the lice off the family dog. With a dog scratching more than normal, it is easy to assume the dog has lice as well.
The first step to treating lice is a proper diagnosis. Even with children, we shouldn’t assume lice is the culprit of an itching and dry scalp. Dog lice are not common in dogs, and once this family has the dog seen by their vet, it is confirmed the dog, coming from a clean home with sanitary conditions, did not have lice at all. The veterinarian was also able to educate the entire family on the conditions lice need to survive, assuring everyone lice from the child will not transfer to the family dog.
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