Can Dogs get Lice?

You may be asking, Can dogs get lice? The short and quick answer is yes. It is very possible for your dog to get lice. The good news is humans can’t get lice from dogs, as they are species-specific, so no worries there…

To have a better understanding of dog lice, it is imperative to know the types of lice and which class it belongs to. Also, you need to know the physical symptoms that shows whether a dog has a lice infestation.

What is lice?

These are tiny insects which are found on various parts of the body. For instance, in a human, lice can be found on the head hairs, eyelashes, and eyebrows. Their main objective is to feed on blood. The lice located on the scalp is known as head lice.

What is dog lice?

These are similar to the ones found on humans. They are small, wingless, six-legged and flat insects; the only difference is their choice of the host which are mammals and Aves (birds). With strong hooked claws, the lice can hang on the host’s (dog) hair shafts. As the lice hang on, they can feed on the host’s skin debris, hairs, blood or sebaceous secretions.

The reason why there are several feed choices for this parasite is that there are different types of dog lice. With each of them having their own preferred host which has been decided by their physical characteristics. What that means is the lice claws are tailored to the specific size of the host’s hairs. And that is one of the main reason why lice are species-specific.

Types of dog lice

Just like every other living thing on the planet, there are varieties upon varieties of beings. The same applies to one of the tiniest of all animals, “the lice.” thanks to microbiology, animals tiny as lice are discovered to have varieties. Each of them is characterized based on the way they feed and their physical traits.

Chewing lice

This is a type of life that feeds on the host’s skins and surface secretions. And there are two species of lice that possess this feeding behavior on dogs and other similar mammals. They are known as Heterodoxus spiniger and Trichodectes canis.

A heterodox singer can be found exclusively in tropical regions, where it is hot enough to affect the host’s skin.

If the host is in direct contact with the sun, there is a high possibility of the host to get dry skin and secrete some sebaceous fluids from its body. This makes the tropical region perfect places for an Heterodoxus spinger to survive.

Sucking lice

This is the one that feeds on the host’s blood to survive. It possesses a mandible modified to suck blood from its host efficiently, which is a sharply pointed mouthpiece. The type of species that affects the dogs is the Linognathus setosus. Such species is common almost everywhere mammals like dogs are present. 

How long does dog lice live?

Once lice have passed through the three stages of their life cycle they are able to live for up to 30 days. If the fall of their host their life span is cut short to only 2-3 days max.

What are the three stages of lice life cycle?

Nits (egg stage)

This is stages involved the lice still in the egg form, and they are called nits at this stage. These oval-shaped eggs are laid on the host’s hair shaft by an adult female louse. It is very hard to notice these nits as they are incredibly tiny they seem to have the same size as knots of a thread.

The color of these eggs is yellow or white if they were to fall off the host(dog) they would seem like crumbs, dandruff or scabs. Before the nits hatch, it takes about 8-9 days.


This is the immediate stage after nits. This is a louse after it has hatched from its nit. It is premature and it will take about 9-12days before it becomes a full adult louse.

Adult louse

This is the stage when the louse becomes fully mature. It becomes as big as a sesame seed. It then develops six legs for better movement. The color of its body becomes greyish-white, a bit similar to dandruff, crumbs or scabs.

The life span of an adult louse on a host is up to 30 days max. But, once it falls off the host, the lifespan is cut short to 2 or 3 days tops.      

How do dogs get lice?

Sometimes it can be quite perplexing that an animal such as the dog lice can find its host so easily. Given the fact that its is physicality doesn’t make it seem like one that can get a host before dying out. Basically, the lice are only designed to be on a host not outside the host.

The Reason why….

The lice have limited mobility – due to their flat body and tiny six legs, lice are only able to crawl rather than jump, hop or flay to its host, which leaves them vulnerable outside a host. Because in a host, lice can crawl anywhere they wish to; food will always be available.

The only way lice can find a host is through by direct contact. Lice survive mainly through this parasitic method. Once your dog comes in contact with an infected dog, there is a high possibility of transmission to take place.

Where do dogs get lice?

Dogs are at risk of contracting lice in public places where there are other dogs which could be infected with lice. Places include parks, daycare centers for dogs and event centers such as dog shows. Make sure to be careful when taking your dog out to such locations.

How to know when a dog has lice?

The symptoms can be detected. The only problem is the parasite has to do some damage before you really notice. It may not be heavy damage but its still damage.

For one, it can be detected visually if it is in the mind of the owner to look for lice. The reason is that lice possess a body that is of the same size as a sesame seed with a white or yellow tan. Sometimes they may be mistaken for dandruff or scabs.

The chewing lice are one that doesn’t move about a lot on the body, so it is hard to detect than the sucking lice which moves around the host to find a suitable spot for sucking blood.

How to detect sucking lice

The sucking lice are now to move about the host body so you could probably catch a fat one moving. And also, the sucking lice posses a sharply pointed mouthpiece which enables the lice to stick on the host body. So if you shake the hairs of the host (dog), you will discover that some flakes didn’t fall off those flakes are sucking lice.

Other symptoms of lice in dogs:

Constant scratching and itching

The host (dog) will scratch its body frequently. This is due to the movements and feeding by lice on the host’s body if you see your dog constantly itching and moaning its probably because it has a community of lice on its body.

The constant scratching and itching is the basic way to identify if a dog has lice or not. Although, sometimes it could be a false alarm. Maybe the dog is just itchy.

The hairs become rough, dry or matted

This is the aftermath of constant itching. Nicely combed lice infested dog will ruin its hair due to the activities of lice in its body.

Hair loss

The after effect of lice causes the host (dogs) to lose hairs in certain parts of its body. It usually occurs around its ears, necks, groins, rectal regions and shoulders. The hair loss is caused by the type of life that feeds on hairs of the host, and that is the chewing lice. If your dog is losing hair, it means it has chewing lice infestation.

Small Wounds

This is a clear indicator of sucking lice infestation. There will be bloody wounds on the host. These wounds are caused by the pointed mouthpiece in which the sucking lice possesses. It used this mouthpiece to feed on the host’s blood by injecting it into the body and through the skin.

Once the sucking louse is done with that part of the host, it then moves to another suitable spot to feed. The former spot is now a wound, and it could get worse by being infected.


This is another symptom which is severe damage to the host’s body. It means the host has lost a lot of blood. It usually happens if the host is not taken care of properly. For this symptom to appears in small pups or smaller dogs with less blood. If it where a bigger dog, it would take quite a lot of lice and a long time without treatment.

This symptom is a clear indication of sucking lice infestation. It can be lethal for the host if care is not taken seriously. If your dog is experiencing this symptom, take it to the vet for proper treatment.


This one of the parasites along with other parasites like bacteria that attack the host internally. They are transmitted by lice, sucking lice to be exact. Their pointed mouthpieces house those other parasites that feed on the inside of the host.

An indication of lice would be as a result of the symptoms caused by the tapeworm or bacteria.

How to treat lice in dogs

Treating a dog for lice isn’t hard. Once a licensed vet has diagnosed the dog for lice infestation, he/she will provide you with instructions for treatment and preventive methods for possible infestation in the future.

You may be thinking by just bathing your dog; the lice would go away. Well..that is not happening as the lice will hold tight to their host body and they can not be killed by just mere soap.

Types of treatment

There various method of treating lice infestation in dogs. Here are what you should consider:

Topical treatment

There are shampoos, powders, and sprays that are good at killing lice. It is due to the presence of these ingredients in them:

  • Lime-sulfur
  • Pyrethrin
  • Pyrethroid
  • Selamectin
  • Imidacloprid
  • Fipronil

Shaving the fur

Some rough or clumped up hairs may need to be shaved off. Once shaving is done, it will expose the skin for proper insecticidal bath treatment. No lice will go unpunished with this method of treatment.

There should be timely treatment

Due to the fast life cycle of the lice, an infected dog should be treated more than just once. The adult female louse lives for up to 4 weeks. She lays eggs (nits) daily. Those nits will need like 1-2 weeks before hatching. Once they hatch, they become a nymph, and in 2-3 weeks they mature up to an egg-laying adult.

When the treatment is done initially, the adult lice will die, but the nits will survive the treatment and remain on the hairs of the pet. The treatment must be done every 1-2 weeks for four weeks. This way one will be able to eliminate lice on time fully.

Note: the treatment can be very risky if the treatment is done badly. There are certain breeds of dogs, young pus or pregnant dogs that need a specific type of treatment. The wrong one might cause issues to their health. Be sure to follow the vet’s instructions.

Preventive measures

  • If your dog is infected, it is best to keep it away from other infected dogs until after proper treatment.
  • Throw away items that have been used by the infested dog because there is a possibility for lice to be on it.
  • Clean all infected items with the proper insecticidal detergents.

So that is all you need to know about lice on dogs. They can affect dogs, there are symptoms that indicate them and they can be cured and prevented.