Canine Pediculosis (Dog Lice)
louse (n. laʊs; v. also laʊz)
n., pl. lice (līs) for 1-3, lous*es for 4, n.
1. any of various small, flat, wingless insects of the order Anoplura.
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Facts About Lice
Nobody wants to see lice on their pet, any more than they do on their kids. Lice cause intense itching and scratching, and can make pets a bit crazy with all the crawling and biting. The good thing is that lice seldom causes long-lasting problems.
Like human head lice, dog lice are usually transmitted in situations where dogs are gathered together. In this respect, lice infestations are a sign of a pampered pet!The dogs most likely to get lice are those who go to dog day care, puppy classes, agility, dog shows, or on group walks. The lice move straight from dog to dog by direct contact.
There are two general groups of lice that infest dogs and cats - biting lice and sucking lice. They differ only in how they feed. All lice have powerful claws on all 6 legs, with which they cling to the hair shafts. They are able to hang on tightly enough that even vigorous scratching and biting will not dislodge them. Lice are slow movers compared to the speedy antics of fleas. They also do NOT jump. This is a great advantage for us.
Unlike fleas, lice live out their entire life cycle on the animal. The adult female lice lay eggs, gluing them tightly to the hair shafts. The eggs are referred to as "nits". In the photo to the left you can see two nits from a dog seen at our clinic. The eggs are actually glued on to the hairs. One has hatched (the empty shell) and one is going to soon (the brown egg). Nymphs hatch from the eggs. These nymphs look the same as adults to the naked eye; they are just smaller versions. They molt several times and become adults. The entire process from egg to adult takes 2-4 weeks.
The biggest problem that the lice create is itching and its attendant loss of sleep and general misery. In severe infestations animals can become anemic due to blood loss; this is generally only seen in young puppies or kittens. Lice can carry tapeworms, so infested dogs should be treated for tapeworms once the lice are under control. They can also (fairly rarely) transmit other diseases.
The first sign of lice that most people notice is the scratching. Suddenly the dog is intensely itchy. Upon close inspection, you might see some small, tan to medium brown colored critters down near the skin. You can tell lice from fleas by the color (fleas are quite dark) and the speed (lice are quite sluggish movers, while fleas usually zoom out of sight before you are really sure you saw anything).
You might also notice the nits on the hairs. They are quite difficult to see with the naked eye. The empty shells look most like little bits of dandruff or dead skin. One way to tell is to use a flea comb to collect hair from the area you are suspicious of. If you can shake the hair and the 'flakes' fall off onto the countertop, it's just dandruff or debris. If the 'flakes' stick tight to the hair, they may be nits.
Dog lice on people
There is no need to panic if your dog gets lice! Dog lice do not like to infest humans. Most lice are quite species-specific; that is, dog lice like dogs and people lice like people. It is definitely possible for a dog louse to get on a person, and it might even bite or try to feed, but it will not set up an infestation. If you see a louse from your dog on yourself, just pick it off or squish it (once you've finished screaming).
Park City Animal Clinic's advice is to use a medicated shampoo that contains pyrethrin and a topical treatment such as Certifect. Wash all bedding and vacuum thoroughly.
Powder Paws Vet Clinic's advice is similar with recommendations for the topical Activyl. Again washing bedding and vacuuming thoroughly. They also made the very good point of being aware that there may be an underlying condition that has weakened the immune system of the dog as healthy dogs generally don't get lice.
Animal Health Solutions' advice is a bit more involved. Being our holistic vet their recommendations are for use of Neem shampoo (found at Whole Foods), instructed us to wash bedding with not only laundry soap but a hint of the shampoo as well and to add cut up pieces of flea & tick collar to our vacuum bag (this will kill anything you vacuum up, genius!). We were also instructed to add garlic and lemon juice to their diet for a time as Ph level and immune system could be likely culprits of why the dog was able to "catch" lice in the first place.
What we are doing
As Active K9 is proud of our social programs there is always a possibility of dogs sharing more than just friendship. We encourage clients who frequent dog parks or visit other daycare/kennel facilities to either utilize a topical remedy or have a structured holistic system.
My personal dogs for instance get an all natural dewormer (Diatomaceous Earth) in their daily supplements, regular baths and we use a neem spray when visiting the dog parks or camping. A good diet and a healthy routine are top priority as well.
- Rarely found on healthy dogs.
- Do NOT transfer from dog to dog easily.
- Are species specific.
- Easily treated.
If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to ask us or call and chat with one of our recommended vets.
Park City Animal Clinic - 435.649.0710
Animal Health Solutions - 435.647.0807