Can dogs get lice? Some might say, yes, thinking that lice and fleas are the same. And still, others say yes, believing that their dogs got lice from their kids, and/or vice versa. But, what’s the real deal between dogs and lice?
Can Dogs Get Lice From Humans?
If you have kids and dogs at home, it might have probably crossed your mind whether they can get lice from each other or not.
Considering that lice infestation in children isn’t that uncommon, it can be easy to assume that your kids got their lice from your dog.
If that thought ever crossed your mind, then, we’re sorry to say that you are wrong. You and your kids can’t get lice from your pup, nor can your canine companion pick up this parasite from you.
However, to answer the primary question in this article, “Yes, dogs can get lice; but again, they are not the same as the human head lice that your kids might have.”
The lice that affect us, humans, are not the same as the lice that affect dogs. Lice are species-specific, which means that dog lice stay on dogs while human lice stay on humans. The former need dog blood to survive, while the latter need human blood, and so on.
What Are Dog Lice?
Lice are tiny, flightless insects that live in the hair and feathers of mammals, birds, and people. They have claws at the end of each leg that allow them to cling into their host’s hair shafts.
What’s even interesting is that their claws are perfectly designed to attach to the specific size of their host’s hair shaft or feathers.
They do not transfer from one species to another – and that’s why they are called species-specific. Moreover, lice thrive either by sucking or eating their host’s blood, skin debris, sebaceous secretions, or feathers.
There are also two types of lice: the chewing or biting lice, and the sucking lice.
- The chewing lice feed mostly on the skin debris and secretions of birds and mammals. And though, you cannot see them clearly with your naked eye, chewing lice have a blunt, flat head as opposed to the pointed head of the sucking lice. There are two species of biting lice that affect dogs – and these are the Trichodectes canis and the Heterodoxus spiniger. The chewing lice can be found mostly in tropical regions.
- The sucking lice, as their name implies, survive by sucking the blood of their hosts. They are lice that only feed on mammals, and the species that affects dogs is called Linognathus setosus. As mentioned earlier, sucking lice are characterized by their sharp-pointed mouthpiece. And they are commonly found in the tropical areas of North and South America, Europe, and Asia.
How Can You Identify If Your Dog Has Lice?
By simply looking at your dog, you can already suspect if he’s infested with lice or not. Below are the common signs of lice infestation in dogs that you should watch out for:
- Scratching/Itchiness at the infested areas (first sign)
- Matted or rough coat
- Hair loss, specifically around ears, neck, shoulders, groin, and rectal area
- Small wounds or bacterial infections caused by scratching and from bites by the sucking lice
You can also confirm the presence of lice or eggs, called nits, by simply parting your dog’s hair using your hand, or you can also use a flea comb. Chewing lice are more active, and move faster while sucking lice usually move at a slower pace.
Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed, so, they can easily be seen by the naked eyes. They are also distinguishable from fleas through their color. Lice are yellow to tan or medium brown, while fleas are dark, or are almost black.
Because of their appearance, lice, especially their eggs can be often mistaken for dandruff. One trick to distinguish the two is by shaking the hair that was removed from your dog.
Female lice glue their eggs on the hair shaft, so regular shampooing, washing, or shaking can’t dislodge the nits. So, if the white specks fall, it’s most probably dandruff. And if they adhere strongly to the hair shaft, it’s probably lice.
If your dog shows signs of louse infestation as mentioned above, it’s best to consult your veterinarian so he can prescribe the best treatment regimen.
He may also address any other nutritional or health issues that can either be connected or not with your dog’s lice.
How Do Dogs Get Lice?
The transmission of lice is usually through direct contact with another infested animal of the same species. Lice can also be transmitted through a contaminated dog’s bedding, dog collars, flea combs, or grooming tools.
Dogs that are in poor health and are living under poor conditions are more prone to be heavily infested with lice.
Hence, dogs that are living with more than one dog in enclosed places are more at risk to be infested with lice. Dogs can also be exposed to lice from other dogs at the dog daycare center, shelter, park, boarding kennels, or dog shows.
The cycle of lice infestation starts when a female louse glues her eggs or nits at the base of a dog’s hair shaft. After one week, the eggs will hatch and goes into the nymphal stage.
The nymphs look like the head of a pin, and they appear exactly like the adult lice, only smaller. The immature nymph will enter the adult phase after one week, which will then, start the cycle again.
Depending on the species, most lice grow from being nits or eggs to a reproductively capable adult in 3-4 weeks (or up to a month).Continue reading below _______________________
How Do You Get Rid of Dog Lice?
If you suspect that your pet dog is infested with lice, consult your vet right away to prevent it from progressing to a full-blown infestation. Dogs, cats, and other pets are usually treated with spot-on products, collars, dust, or sprays that kill lice.
Treatment options can be overwhelming, so, it’s best to seek professional advice from your vet. He can prescribe the appropriate product for your dog’s condition, the proper dosing, and directions for use.
For severe cases of lice infestation, you can opt to clip your dog’s matted hair because these are most probably infested areas and you can’t easily dislodge the lice and eggs off.
You can also use flea combs to remove both the live and dead lice from your dog’s fur. Bear in mind, though, that the flea comb won’t kill the eggs or prevent them from hatching. But at least, you can reduce the number of lice present in your dog’s coat.
Once you’ve removed the lice and the eggs using a flea comb, don’t forget to dispose both the alive and dead lice properly inside a sealed container (such as a zip-closure plastic bag).
Also, after using the comb, make sure to submerge it in water with flea shampoo or other insecticides for at least 10 minutes.
Lice naturally die a few days after once they drop or fall off their living host, but their eggs may still continue to hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. Hence, lice control treatment should be repeated about one week after the first treatment to ensure that the eggs are also wiped away.
To prevent re-infestation, all dogs in the household should also be treated, and the environment must be regularly cleaned and sanitized, including the beddings, collars, combs, and so forth.