If your dog is scratching all the time, shows signs of restlessness or fur loss… your dog may have chewing lice or sucking lice.

 

Dog chewing lice or sucking lice

 

Ewwwww! Luckily it’s relatively easy to get rid of chewing lice or sucking lice, but there are some things you need to know.

 

What Are Chewing Lice and Sucking Lice?

 

Lice (singular, louse, but you’ll never find just one) are tiny, flightless insects that live in hair, fur or feathers. There are two types of lice:

 

  • Chewing lice, Trichodectes canis (order Mallophaga): feed on skin debris. Chewing lice can introduce tapeworm to a dog.
  • Sucking lice, Linognathus setosus (order Anoplura): feed on blood and live only on mammals. Severe infestations of sucking lice can lead to anemia and to stunted development in afflicted puppies.

 



 

 

Lice are species-specific, meaning if your dog has them, they won’t migrate to people, cats or other non-canine pets.

 

Chewing Lice

 

Symptoms of Lice

 

Symptoms can include itchiness and scratching, rubbing, frequent rolling (especially in dirt or snow), biting at the skin, restlessness, dry coat, matted fur or fur loss; most often around the neck, upper back, groin, tail and armpits.

 

Sucking Lice

 

Spotting lice isn’t easy until there’s an actual infestation, especially in dogs with longer fur. You may notice adult lice on the skin; they look like brown, flattened bits of mud on the skin. Or you may notice the white eggs or “nits,” stuck to your dog’s fur.

 

Causes of Lice Infestation on Your Dog

 

Both types of lice are transferred dog-to-dog through physical contact or by sharing bedding, furniture or outdoor space. Close-contact situations like dog parks, shelters, boarding kennels or grooming facilities can spread lice.

 

 

An infestation is called “canine pediculosis.” It’s a condition that usually occurs in malnourished, geriatric, immature dogs or dogs living in unsanitary conditions. However, it’s quite possible for a healthy adult dog – even one who gets frequent baths – to get lice, especially if Buddy is highly social and loves to play with other dogs.

 

Lice Treatment for Dogs

 

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed pediculosis, it’s time to pull out the big guns and go for the insecticide treatment. Although I’m a big proponent of natural cures for everything… bathing your pet will not take care of a lice infestation. Lice are tough little buggers. They hold on very tight to the skin and hair and soap and water will not kill them.

 

The most effective treatments are sprays, tinctures, powders and shampoos that contain Lime-sulfur, Pyrethrin or Pyrethroid. In severe cases, completely shaving your dog may be necessary; however, healthy dogs usually respond well to insecticide treatments.

 

Vet Basics Lime Sulfur Dip 16 Ounce
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It’s critical to repeat the treatment several times. Females live about 4 weeks and lay eggs every day. The nits hatch within 1-2 weeks. Therefore it’s a continual cycle of more and more lice. The initial treatment will only kill the adult lice. The nits are impervious to insecticides and because they hatch within 1-2 weeks, you will want to repeat the treatment 2 weeks after the initial treatment to kill the nymphs as they emerge. You may need to repeat the treatment several more times to completely rid your dog of lice. Frequent combing or brushing may help dislodge nits, but your best bet is to wait until the nits hatch and then use insecticide on them.

 

As much as possible, isolate the affected pet until you’ve gone through the full treatment regimen. Thoroughly wash all bedding, furniture, crates, collars, dog sweaters, rugs, grooming supplies or anyplace the dog has been. If you’re using a washing machine, use the hot water cycle and high-heat drying and bleach if possible. You can also use insecticide sprays on bedding and furniture (test for color-fastness!), repeating bi-weekly for several weeks.

 

 

Lice will only survive less than a week off the dog but again, since females lay eggs daily, you will want to repeat the environmental treatment several times to ensure all emerging nymphs are killed.

 

All-natural “flea and tick” shampoos containing insect repellent essential oils unfortunately don’t always do the job, especially if the dog has an infestation. I’ve heard people swear by oils like coconut oil – the oil will suffocate the adult lice – but this also makes a heck of a mess since it needs to be applied in large quantities, and left on long enough to suffocate the adults. Coconut oil may be fine if you’re lucky enough to spot the first few lice, but it will likely be ineffective if the dog has an infestation. I really recommend an insecticidal treatment since it’s so effective and quickly eases your dog’s discomfort.

 

 

Dogs with a sucking lice infestation who have developed anemia will need supplements to bring them back to health: iron, minerals and vitamins may be needed; consult your veterinarian for the best way to bring Buddy back to health.

 

Insecticidal treatments for lice are not without risk. Pregnant dogs, young puppies or sick dogs may react adversely to insecticides. Follow the veterinarian’s and product instructions to the letter!!

 

Prevention of Lice on Dogs

 

Don’t feel bad if your dog got lice. It does NOT mean you’re a bad dog parent!

 

Adams Plus Pyrethrin Dip for Dogs and Cats, 4 oz
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A simple rough-and-tumble game at the dog park could have caused it and since lice are so small and easily overlooked (even when petting your dog) and because they breed so fast, an infestation can happen before you know it.

 

You don’t have to avoid the dog park and make Buddy miss his friends! Just keep an eye on your dog, give his fur a thorough examination at least every two weeks and watch for signs of lice. Now that you know what to look for, you can quickly treat your dog and prevent the problems that a lice infestation can bring.

 

What To Do If Your Dog Gets Chewing Lice or Sucking Lice – Has your precious pup ever had lice? What worked for you?

 

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  1. Thank you so much for this information. My dog is suffering from lice and I was about to take him to the vet. You just saved us a lot of money. I’m sure the vet would have charged us for the visit, tests and medications; these remedies are much cheaper…

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