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Health & Wellness

Can dogs get lice?

Here’s the scoop on these pesky insects.

Hair loss, matted fur and crusty skin are all signs your pup has lice — and if you're nodding your head while reading this because it's currently your pup's reality, don't freak out. First off, you can't catch the lice from your dog, so take a quick sigh of relief. Now, let's get your dog on the path towards becoming lice-free.

What is the life cycle of lice? 

If a dog isn’t treated for lice, the lice will spend their entire lives on that pup, Dr. McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, tells The Dig. “The lice lay eggs on the dog’s hair shaft,” she adds. “Once the nymph, or immature stage, hatches from the egg, it goes through three molts and becomes an adult who can then start to lay eggs.”

What is chewing lice? 

“There are two main types of lice, sucking lice and biting lice,” Dr. McCullough says. “Chewing lice feed on skin secretions and debris, dried blood and fur. Sucking lice feeds on blood and tissue fluid.”

Can dogs get lice from humans? 

Luckily for dogs (and pet parents, too), Dr. McCullough says that because lice species are so specific, the ones that are attracted to people don't impact dogs. So, no need to stop cuddling if you have lice. 

Can you get lice from dogs? 

More good news: Infected dogs can't spread lice to people. However, lice is contagious to other animals. “Other dogs become infected through direct contact with a lice-infested dog or with contaminated bedding, brushes and combs,” Dr. McCullough says. 

Symptoms of lice on dogs

Dr. McCullough says that young, neglected and malnourished dogs are at a higher risk of experiencing lice infestations. Lice look like white specks on dogs, so look out for those in addition to the following symptoms if you’re concerned about your pup having lice: 

  • Hair loss
  • Excessive skin discharge and white flakes of skin
  • Crusts on the skin
  • Small raised bumps or pimples
  • Matted fur

RELATED: Signs of fleas on dogs and how to get rid of them

How do veterinarians diagnose lice on dogs? 

Contact your veterinarian if you think your dog has lice. “Veterinarians diagnose a lice infestation by performing a thorough physical examination, visualizing lice or nits on the fur, using a flea comb to collect lice and nits and by examining a fur or skin sample under the microscope,” Dr. McCullough explains. 

Treatment options for dog lice

There are a few ways to clear up your dog's lice. Dr. McCullough says that your veterinarian may suggest dips (which is a solution that you rub on your dog’s skin), spot-on flea and tick prevention products or medicated shampoos. “Antibiotics and anti-itch medications may be needed to manage other symptoms of a lice infection,” she adds. 

In most cases, proper treatment can exterminate lice on your pup within 2 to 7 days. However, if multiple treatments are required, the recovery period could differ. 

If the lice infestation in your home is severe, you should disinfect the area. Dr. McCullough recommends throwing away or cleaning your dog’s bedding and grooming tools. Make sure to separate your pup from other animals in your home the moment you discover they have lice and don’t reunite them until they’ve fully recovered. Even though you’ve separated your pets, make sure to treat them all for lice as a precaution.

How to prevent lice on dogs

Dr. McCullough recommends routinely applying external preventives to your pup’s skin to prevent lice from affecting your dog. 

We hope your dog is never affected by these pesky insects — but if they are, you’ll know how to stop the irritation and prevent future lice infestations. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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