Yes, dogs can get lice. It’s not common, but it has been known to happen.
First, you should know that we’re not talking about human head lice. Those nasty little flightless insects are typically species-specific to humans, so you will find them only in human hair. Dog hair is too coarse for this kind of lice.
But there’s another type of lice known as dog lice (and cat lice, and even bird lice). They can attach to animal hairs in run-down dogs or cats. These lice do not jump around like fleas, and humans rarely get lice from pets.
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Lice are not easy to spot. Inspect the hair closely, and use a magnifying glass to get a better look. These lice will be lighter brown (or tan) rather than their darker brown cousins that like humans. Lice will cause your dog to itch intensely.
Severe infestations may have your pet creating wounds thanks to the constant scratching. Now let’s discuss a few ways to treat dog lice naturally.
To treat a dog that has lice, wash the hair every day with a shampoo that contains d-limonene (it’s a citrus-derived insecticide that is nontoxic to your pet). Rinse after 10 minutes. This should kill the adult dog lice.
Meanwhile, the eggs (called “nits”) will continue to hatch over two to three weeks, so this is why you need to keep giving baths every day until all lice are dead. If you pick off any lice from the dog, dispose of them in a sealed bag. Using a nit comb will not yield any live lice, only eggs, so just stick to bathing the dog and be patient.
There is probably no need to treat bedding or other pet areas for lice, as the lice confine themselves solely to the pet itself. Unlike fleas, these pests live and breed and feed entirely on the dog. However, you may want to carefully inspect and clean grooming tools, the dog collar and similar items just in case.
In the video below, veterinarian Fiona Caldwell talks about home remedies for dog lice:
How did your dog get lice? In short, your dog became infested after spending time with another animal that had lice. Or your dog was groomed with a brush or comb that was contaminated with lice. These varmints are spread by direct contact. Dogs that are in poor health can become particularly heavily infested.
Sources for This Article
- Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, by Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn and Susan Hubble Pitcairn; Rodale Books; 1995
- The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health: The Complete Health Resource for Your Dog, Cat, Horse or Other Pets, In Everyday Language, by Cynthia M. Kahn and Scott Line; Merck Publishing Group; 2007
- Australian Cattle Dogs: Complete Pet Owner’s Manual, by Richard G. Beauchamp; Barron’s Educational Series; 2007
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