Have you ever thought about hair lice affecting your family and wondered, can dogs get lice from humans? The answer is no, dogs cannot get lice from humans, and humans can not get lice from dogs. The lice that affect dogs are different from those that affect people.

Lice, external parasites (ectoparasites, which inhabit the coat or the skin of the host) are species-specific and never spread to humans meaning dog lice will only attach to dogs. What we call hair lice can not be passed on to dogs or certainly, cannot live on a dog.

According to the Animal Medical Hospital, "Most lice are quite species-specific; that is, dog lice like dogs and people lice like people." Lice who like another species can land on a different animal but they wont infest that species.

What are Lice?

Lice are a common pest that can be found on all warm-blooded animals. Dogs are susceptible to lice infestation, and the effects can be devastating if left untreated. 

Lice are tiny parasitic insects that are hard to spot. They are six-legged creatures. They do not jump like fleas as they have no wings. There are two basic types: sucking lice that feed by sucking on blood (Linognathus setosus) and chewing lice that feed on the skin and secretions (Trichodectes canis). The female chewing and sucking lice reproduce by laying eggs called nits. 

They are whitish in color, turning yellow when the eggs die. These nits are glued to the hair shafts, which are hard to dislodge. The nits hatch into mites, known as nymphs which are miniature versions of the adult. They burrow into the skin or latch onto the hair of their host and feed on blood or skin debris and secretions. The life cycle takes approximately 4-6 weeks from egg to nymph to an adult.

How to check if your dog has lice?

There is an easy way to check for them by looking within the coat up close, as far as the hair shaft, and you should be able to see the adult lice. They are 2-4 millimeters long and appear as dark spots or flecks of dandruff on your pet's fur, varying in color from pale beige to gray and dark brown depending if it is feeding on blood.

They can be mistaken for dandruff. Having a magnifying glass would make it easier to inspect your dog's fur by using a fine tooth comb to comb from the base of the hair.

How are Lice Transmitted?

Dogs can get lice in the same way that people do, through close contact with other dogs that have the infestation and wherever your dog has been socializing, in an environment where there are many other animals, such as a kennel.

Grooming salons can be the source of lice if they share their scissors, combs, or other tools with customers. It is possible for lice and their eggs to be transferred by items wherever your dog has been, so it is important to wash/get rid of any soft furnishings. Wash all hard surfaces, wash their bedding, etc., anywhere that your dog has been in contact with, and not forget all your grooming tools as the lice will produce more of themselves over time if they are not removed.

The lice survival rate without a host to feed off is between 3 to 7 days, so you want all contact areas to be cleaned to prevent transmission to other dogs.

How do I know if my Dog has Lice?

Scratching is a telltale sign of lice. Not only can these parasites cause intense itching and discomfort, but they can also lead to serious skin infections. Lice attach themselves to the hair and body, with eggs typically laid close to the skin.

Signs may be:

  • Scratching, biting, or rubbing

  • Rough, dry, scaly skin with crusts and dandruff

  • Possible matting

  • The appearance of small wounds causing a secondary bacterial infection

  • Alopecia (fur loss)

  • Anemia from sucking lice, particularly in young dogs

  • May have tapeworms which are caused by the chewing louse, trichodectes canis

  • Visible lice and lice eggs on the fur

  • Visible by using a fine-toothed lice/flea comb through the dog's coat

How to get rid of Lice in Dogs?

There are many treatment shampoos on the market to treat lice in dogs. The shampoo should be applied to the dog's coat and left on for approx 10 minutes before rinsing off. The whole coat must be covered with the treatment shampoo. This treatment will kill the lice but not the eggs; therefore, repeated treatments are advised until all the lice are eradicated. It is essential to treat all other dogs in your household as well.

You should seek advice from your veterinarian for further advice as a topical insecticide may be prescribed as well as a shampoo. The type of infestation can be diagnosed by taking a sample of your dog's skin and fur and examining it under a microscope giving more insight into the type of lice your dog may have to help your veterinarian with the correct prescription.

Wash/get rid of any soft furnishings. Wash hard surfaces like their bedding, crates, etc., anywhere that your dog has been in contact with, and do not forget all your grooming tools to prevent reinfection, some of which may be necessary to replace as they would be harder to clean. Vacuum carpets and use a steamer if you can.

Quarantine your dog after the treatment for lice. This is a crucial part of preventing a recurrence of the lice. The four-week period will allow the eggs and the larvae of the lice to die off, preventing them from being brought back into contact with your dog's coat.

How to help prevent Lice?

In conclusion, it is important to know that your dog can get lice.  

An unhealthy dog with poor nutrition increases the risk of being infested by lice.

The conditions in which certain dogs live can influence the risk of being infected.

Check your dog's coat regularly for signs of lice and keep their environment clean.

Steps you can take to prevent your dog from getting fleas and ticks, and lice are:

  • Bathe your dog regularly using a shampoo that kills lice, fleas, and ticks

  • Apply a flea and tick prevention medication

  • Check your dog for lice every month

  • Keep the dog's hair trimmed or groomed.

  • Healthy nutrition

Prevention begins with regular grooming, as well as checking for signs such as scratching and hair loss. Once you notice these symptoms, it's best to schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible.

To Conclude

Can dogs get lice from humans? The answer to this is no; head lice can not be passed on to dogs, and lice attached to dogs can not be passed onto humans. However, lice affect all warm-blooded animals and can be severe for your dog if left untreated. You can do things to help prevent lice in dogs, such as better nutrition, but first, it is important to know how to recognize lice and what treatment would be needed, so you can keep your pet as healthy as possible.

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