If you've ever wondered whether or not dogs can get lice, the short answer is "Yes." Like any pest, lice are a nuisance, although lice infestations are not diagnosed often and are not common. If a dog has lice, it's likely because they got the lice from another infected dog, from unsanitized groomer's equipment or the dog may be sick, young, malnourished or stressed.
How do dogs get lice?
So how do dogs get lice, and what can you do to prevent the pests? Some of the common ways dogs get lice are through other infected dogs, overcrowded housing, and poor sanitation. Lice can be passed along via grooming tools. Brushes or combs can be contaminated by eggs from one pet and then those eggs get passed to another pet. Groomers who are not disinfecting combs, brushes and trimming equipment, such as scissors and shavers, are increasing the likelihood of passing lice from one dog to another. If you take your dog to a groomer, it's important to confirm that the staff disinfects their tools between groomings.
Do dogs get lice from humans?
No, and humans don't get lice from dogs either. Lice are species specific, meaning dog lice stay on dogs and human lice stay on humans.
How do you know if your dog has lice?
Lice, like fleas, can be visualized when the hair is parted. They are about the size of a sesame seed, yellow to tan in color. Lice live on and around hair shafts, clinging to the dog's hair, eating skin cells, dander and gland secretions. They are also often found around wounds and body openings. Lice are just one of the many reasons why it's important to check your dog's coat regularly. Other signs to look for include:
- hair loss
- flaky and/or greasy skin and coat
If you notice any of these symptoms, you'll want to do checks on your dog for adult lice or eggs (also known as nits), which appear as white specks that stick firmly to the hair shaft. Adult lice are commonly stuck to the hair as well, though they might also be walking around.
A dog that has lice is uncomfortable, but that's not the only potential problem. Lice can also transmit tapeworms if ingested from licking and chewing at the skin, and they can pave the way for a dog to develop bacterial skin infections, too, which compound the problem. You'll want to get them taken care of right away if you find that your dog has lice.
In addition, if you have more than one dog, you'll want to have all of them checked by the vet. Dogs that are in close proximity can pass eggs or lice to one another through shared bedding and living quarters.
How do I treat lice?
The good news is, lice infestations are treatable. Treat the dog with a collar, topical or spray labeled to kill and control lice. Most flea products are also labeled effective against lice, so by having flea prevention on, your dog also gets the added bonus of lice protection. In the end, lice isn't something that should worry you too much, but it's good to be aware of signs and symptoms, so you can purchase a treatment product at your local pet retailer or veterinarian to prevent further problems.