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

Lice on human's finger.

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?

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.

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

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?

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.
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