All About Lice

Another itch-inducing blog brought to you by spring! It’s that time of year again when everyone wants to be out in the sunshine meeting new people. Well unfortunately so do the parasites. Most people have heard of lice and while lice in dogs are similar they are not the same species that infect humans. Luckily your dog won’t share their lice with you but they will share them with all their dog friends. So how did your dog or cat get lice in the first place?

Lice live their lives on a host and they are spread between pets during contact. So when you’re at the dog park or your pup is playing at Daycare they maybe are sharing more than fun times with the other pups! The Lice transfer between pets when they are in contact with one another. Once on a new pet, a female will lay her eggs. She glues the eggs to the hair follicles to ensure they will not be knocked off easily. The eggs will then hatch and mature into adults where the life cycle will start all over again.

There are two different types of lice, biting and sucking. They appear slightly different but both feed on their host, your pet, by ingesting their skin debris and skin secretions. This causes irritation to your pet making them uncomfortable and itchy. To relieve this itchiness you may see your pet scratching or chew at themselves. Lice do not live very long in the environment if they fall off your pet but the eggs can survive for a couple weeks. Lice can be seen with the naked eye. If your dog is scratching a lot part the fur and look at your pet’s skin where you may find some unexpected guests. Now it’s time to head to the Veterinary clinic to confirm your suspicions. Once at the Clinic your veterinarian will catch a few bugs and confirm under the microscope that they are lice. Now it’s time for treatment.

There are a variety of topical products that are used to kill adult Lice. Your Veterinarian will determine which treatment plan is the most appropriate for your pet based on their age, health status as well as other pets in the household. Some topical treatments for dogs containing permethrins are toxic to cats and should be used with caution or not at all in a household with a cat. As lice can survive in the environment treatment usually consist of more than one application spread a few weeks apart. By doing so this ensures that if your pet was re-infected from the environment or from eggs that remained on your pet after treatment, the second treatment should kill all remaining lice before they have a chance
to mature and lay eggs. Bedding, sweaters and anything that can be washed should be with hot water. You should also give the house a really good clean. While your pet is being treated for Lice you should keep them away from other pets so that they do not infect anyone else. Your pup maybe be sad that they are unable to go to daycare but the other dogs will appreciate not getting lice! This may be a good time to work on some training to keep your dog busy and entertained.

Written by Nicki Payne, RVT