Can Pets Catch Lice?

Posted by Christy Caplan
Pets Can Get Lice

Lice are species-specific. Dogs and cats can occasionally get lice but lice are not commonly diagnosed in our pets. They absolutely didn't catch lice from your kids if you're wondering!

However, according to experts, a pet can provide a short-term landing spot for bugs that can survive there for about 24 hours. They're simply waiting there and for an opportunity to find a new home! Gross!

Senior animals and young puppies or kittens are at risk of getting lice. Also, pets that are living in poor conditions may also be candidates for this nasty bug.

Can dogs get lice?

There is good news about lice and dogs. Dogs rarely get lice. Most of the monthly dog flea and tick preventatives have made lice infestations rare in dogs! Treatment varies and your vet will determine what to do after lice is diagnosed. Your vet will also have you treat all the dogs in the house. Daycare, dog shows, and parks are how your dog likely got lice but it's not something to feel bad about just make an appointment with your vet!

What are the common signs or symptoms?

You should go over the areas you suspect have lice with a flea comb.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) provides a list of signs there is a lice infestation:

  • Scratching and itchiness
  • Rough, dry, or matted coat
  • Hair loss, specifically around ears, neck, shoulders, groin, and rectal regions
  • Small wounds or infections from bites by sucking lice
  • Anemia, in extreme cases or in small dogs and puppies
  • Tapeworms and other bacteria or parasites that are spread by lice

How do you get rid of dog lice?

Treatment and monthly preventatives are how you can cut down on the potential risks. Is your dog currently on a medication? Both my dogs are taking Credelio to protect them as we have both fleas and ticks here in SW Washington.

The AKC tells us that many insecticides are effective treatments for lice in dogs.

"According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), Fipronil, imidacloprid, and selamectin are all effective. Topical permethrin can be used on dogs with good effect."

Make sure to wash all your bedding and blankets at home.

Since we're also talking about cats in this article it's very important you don't put tick and flea products for dogs on your cats. They can be toxic so always have your vet provide you with the best product.

The life cycle of lice is long and unfortunately, the treatments won't kill the eggs so you'll need to treat your dog(s) for about a month.

Cats can get lice but it's also rare

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Your cat probably got lice from physical contact with another cat. One of the most common ways cats get lice is from a mother cat to a litter of kittens. Canna-pet also tells us that cats can only get one type of lice and it's a "chewing lice" so you'll see them itching and it's most likely lice are living on their neck, head or tail. 

There are two different types of lice for dogs. Chewing lice and sucking lice are what you have to worry about with your canine friend.

Dog owners should be vigilant about giving their dogs a monthly flea and tick preventative. If your pets get lice there are treatments available so you don't have to worry. The only "pain" about pet lice is the amount of time your dog must be treated. Of course, cleaning all your dog's bedding (and anything they sleep on) will be needed before your dog comes back from the vet!

If you adopt a dog that's in poor health and has severe infestation and other health issues then your vet will provide proper direction on how to best proceed.

The two types and species of lice for dogs include:

  • Chewing lice survive by eating skin debris and surface secretions. There are two species of chewing lice that affect dogs and they're called Trichodectes canis and Heterodoxus spiniger. 
  • Sucking lice need blood to survive. The species of sucking lice that affect dogs is called Linognathus setosus. Unlike the chewing lice, these have a sharp pointed mouthpiece.

It must be a relief to know human head lice cannot affect our pets!

Have you ever treated your pet for lice? Please leave us a comment below. 

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Can Pets Catch Lice?