Lice Treatment for Dogs: Most Effective Treatments (Plus Signs & Symptoms)

Dog lice are tiny, wingless six legged insects. They have strong hook-like claws on each leg, to grip the host’s skin or hair. Dog lice grip so strongly that even the hardest scratching by the dog cannot dislodge them. Passing some molting phases, the immature lice turn adult. An adult dog lice have pale to medium brown color and flat body structure. Their average length is between 1.5 to 4 millimeters. You can watch them with your naked eyes moving on your pet’s body. The average louse life cycle is about 4 weeks long. When a dog is infested, it is given a scientific term “pediculosis”.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dog’s Lice?

Dog with lice infestation on white background.

There are outnumbered symptoms and signs that indicate pediculosis in your pet. The most common signs or symptoms may include:

  • The dog itches non-stop. You would hardly see your dog relaxed. The dog is scratching, rubbing and biting its skin for most of the time. When you look closely, you would see the small parasites roaming slowly on dog’s body (Unlike fleas, lice move slowly).
  • Dog’s fur looks matted, dry and scruffy.
  • Infected and red skin.
  • The constant blood sucking by live lice makes the dog lazy, lethargic and anemic.
  • Dogs suffer weight loss and restlessness.
  • Their body may have some small wounds resulted from constant sucking or biting by lice.
  • Lice need moisture that is why these are normally found somewhere around the open wounds or area close to anus.
  • Some body parts like groin, ear, shoulders, neck or rectal regions may have some bald spots.
  • On taking a closer look, you will see hundreds of white, sand grain like specks glued to dog’s hair shaft. These are nits (lice’s eggs).
  • You can’t detect the initial stages of the lice epidemic in your pet. It gets noticed when the animal is infested severely.

You can examine your dog for lice. It’s easy to spot lice on dogs when you know where to look. Brush your dog well and take the hair that the dog has and shake the removed hair.

When shaking, see if the white spots on the hair fall off. Dandruff will fall off of the dog, but lice will remain attached to the dog’s hair.

If the “dandruff” does not shake off and fall to the ground, chances are that your pup is dealing with lice.

How Do They Get Dog Lice?

Dog lice are divided in two different types—biting louse (large mouthpart) and sucking louse (narrow mouthpart). The biting louse tends to chew on dog’s skin while sucking louse lives on dog’s blood. Dogs can have these varmints through many ways. Some of them are as under:

  • In most of the cases, physical dog to dog contact cause lice infestation in dogs. Places like animal shelters, boarding kennels, places for grooming and the dog parks are the most common spots where dogs come closer, resulting in the spread of lice.
  • Debilitated dogs that are old, malnourished or in poor health conditions are more likely to fall victim of pediculosis.
  • Poor sanitary conditions, dirty areas, contaminated utensils and bedding; all tend to cause lice infestation in dogs.
  • A dog groomed by an infested brush or comb can easily get dog lice.

Note: Lice are species-specific parasites and does not cause cross-species transmission. This fact debunks the old myth claiming, ‘humans get lice from dogs/animals or vice versa’.

Treatment of Lice in Dogs

Lice treatment with lice forbidden mark on white background.

The first step is to get your dog checked by a vet. If he confirms and diagnose pediculosis, get his assistance for the most suitable way to cure. Fortunately, dog’s lice cause no health hazard. Curing it is the easiest of all other parasites in dogs (pest fleas, ticks). There are a number of ways to treat a louse infestation. Read on to know about the most effective treatments recommended by the veterinarians.

1. Topical Treatments

Markets are filled with products to use topically. These may include insecticidal sprays, medicated shampoos and powders to kill lice. Some of the best products may include ripronil, imidacloprid, and selamectin. Prefer the products with strong ingredients like— pyrethrin, pyrethroid and lime Sulphur. Furthermore, make certain you are bathing your dog every day, preferably a sponge bath with a shampoo containing d-Limonene. Leave the shampoo for 10 minutes on the body before rinsing. Use nit comb after bathing it. You must dispose of the nits and lice (found in the lice comb) in some sealed plastic bag.

2. Fur Shaving

To apply the topical medication, it is essential to reach to the inner most layer of the fur. That becomes difficult, when dealing with some furry breed of dogs. In such cases, the vet may recommend shaving the fur of the dog. This is the best solution to reach to the deepest layer where nits and lice are glued. Besides that, dogs with matted or clumped fur should also be shaved.

3. Treatment Duration

Dog’s lice grow speedily. A female louse’s life span is about 30 days long. And all through these days, she keeps on laying nits. A single louse lays about 100 eggs in her whole life. And within 2 to 3 weeks, these nits turn into adult lice, causing multiplication in the numbers of lice on dog’s body. As most of the anti-lice medications do not kill nits, so there is always the chance of their retreatment. That is why experts suggest to apply the topical medications on your pet for more than once (follow the instructions given on the label).

4. Treatment Risks

There are some preventatives and insecticides that are not suitable for young puppies or pregnant bitches. That is why, never try any medication on your own. Always seek vets advise.

Note: Make sure you are doing everything to provide a better nutrition to your weak and anemic dog. Its diet should have nutrients like iron, vitamins and minerals to get over that shortcoming of red blood cells.

How to Avoid Retreatment of Lice in Dogs?

Vacuum working in house.

Dog’s lice can easily retreat unless you follow some precautionary measures to stop future lice infestation. These may include:

  • Sanitize or disinfect the bedding, utensils, combs, brushes, collars, rugs, carpets or anything that comes in direct contact with your dog. If you can’t wash all of them, dispose them of in the safest manner (away from your place).If you do not want to throw them, simply seal them in zip-lock plastic bags for a few weeks (4 to 6 at least) till all lice are dead (without dog’s blood) and nits are hatched and dead.
  • Vacuum (or sanitize)each spot where your pet used to spend its time. Dog’s hair is found all around. They may have some lingering lice or nits. Make sure to vacuum all of that. Dispose of the vacuum bag safely to avoid any possible lice infestation.

The best way to avoid having to retreat your animal is to take preventative measures. A proper routine to keep lice off of dogs is as follows:


  • Baths. Your first course of action should be to incorporate monthly baths into your dog’s routine. But you can increase the number of baths that you perform to allow for weekly baths – every dog is different. Dogs that are outside often or come in contact with other dogs often will require more frequent baths.
  • Comb and brush. Your pup will like to be brushed, and you can even use a lice comb in certain breeds. A fine-tooth comb should be used on your dog’s face and the thinner areas of fur on their body. When using a comb, make sure to perform a thorough inspection of the animal’s skin to determine if any lice are present.
  • Flea comb. If you have access to a flea comb, you should be using one. The flea comb will be a good way to remove lice and also search for lice in your dog’s fur.
  • Stay away. If you know another dog has lice, keep your animal away from them. Doggy daycares are a prime area for dog lice, and if the issue started at the daycare, do not allow your pup to return unless you’re 100% sure that the lice infestation has been cleared. Lice will jump from dog to dog, so if your dog has lice, keep him or her away from other dogs until you’ve properly treated your pet.
  • Shampoo. When bathing your pup, make sure to use a thick shampoo that lathers well and gets deep into the dog’s fur. This thick lather can help keep lice off of your dog.
  • Insecticide shampoo. If your pup has an infestation, consult with your veterinarian on the best treatment options for your dog. A lot of high-end shampoos will be able to kill lice and make the dog’s hair less appealing for lice to infest.

But this is just the start of prevention. You can perform all of the above steps on your dog to make sure that he is best prepared to repel lice and kill lice as necessary.  I want to take this a step further and look at environmental options that will ensure that there are no lice on dogs in your home.

Environmental Prevention for Lice

Lice rely on the environment to spread and thrive. If you take environmental prevention measures, you’ll be able to keep lice away from your dog in the first place. A few of the key measures that we recommend you take to make the environment less suitable for lice, are:

  • Lice tend to congregate around areas that have mice or food scraps. For example, dumpsters often attract rodents and lice. Keep the area where your dog goes outside clean and remove any trash or debris from the space. If there are mice or rodents, make sure that they’re removed.
  • Groomers will also keep your dog clean, but they can also be a haven for lice. Make sure that you choose your groomer with the utmost care, reading reviews online and using your own experience to determine if a groomer may be the source of your dog’s lice.
  • Dogs love to make friends, but these friends may also be infested with lice. If your dog’s friend had lice recently, make sure to check the pup for lice and keep the dogs apart until the lice has been properly treated.
  • Clean off all bedding and toys that your dog may have come in contact with during an infestation. You’ll want to clean all of these items on hot, or you may need to replace these items. Stuffed toys are often very problematic because they can harbor lice until they seek refuge on your dog. You may have to discard of these stuffed toys if the infestation continues to return

If you follow these preventative measures, you’ll be ensuring that your dog is in a home that is best protected from lice. Keep in mind that the lice on a dog is much different than a lice on a human. You cannot transfer human lice to your dog and vice-versa.

Lice will be able to live off of your dog for a short period of time. If you’re getting over an infestation, it’s possible that the lice are living in fabric for a short period of time.

A dog that has a favorite chair or spot on the carpet can also transfer lice to these areas Make sure that you clean these areas thoroughly to kill any lice that may cling on to the fabric. Use a steam cleaner on the hottest setting possible in an effort to kill lice in your carpet.

Your dog’s coat may have suffered from drying and damage from the lice, too. A key sign that your dog may be dealing with lice are dry, bald patches on their skin. This dryness may not go away on its own without the proper diet and grooming plan.

If your dog’s coat is dry and disheveled after treatment, you may want to feed your dog a raw egg to help with their coat. Harsh shampoos can also impact a dog’s coat and cause dry skin.

A healthy diet can help reverse some of this damage to your pup’s coat and will keep his skin healthy, too.

Dogs will suffer from fleas, ticks and lice threats their entire lives, taking the appropriate measures outlined above will offer the utmost in protection for your dog.

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