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Lice in Dogs

Canine Pediculosis

Lice represent parasites that reside on the skin of an afflicted dog. They are tiny insects that sustain themselves by gnawing on the dog’s skin or by drawing blood, contingent upon the louse species. If left unattended, they have the potential to proliferate and create an infestation on the dog’s physique. Dog lice, while less prevalent compared to dog fleas, tend to manifest in environments marked by substandard sanitary conditions.

Symptoms and Types

Signs observed in dogs infested with lice encompass:

  • Intense itchiness and frequent scratching
  • A dry, unkempt appearance of the coat
  • Hair loss, typically concentrated around the ears, neck, shoulders, groin, and rectal region
  • Anemia, especially prevalent in puppies and small breeds, particularly in cases of severe infestation


There exist two species of lice that infest dogs:

  • Trichodectes canis, recognized as a chewing louse, which gnaws on the skin of the infested dog.
  • Linognathus setosus, a sucking louse, which feeds on the dog’s blood instead of chewing the skin.
  • Both varieties of lice can be transmitted directly from one dog to another through direct contact or via contact with contaminated items such as grooming tools or bedding.

Lice exhibit species-specific behavior, meaning they do not transfer from one species to another. Consequently, you cannot acquire lice from your dog, nor can your dog contract human-specific lice from you.


The diagnosis is straightforward and involves visually detecting lice or their nits (eggs) in the fur. Adult lice are flat, six-legged insects devoid of wings. Nits are observable attached to individual hair strands, presenting as small white dots.


A diverse array of shampoos, insecticidal sprays, and powders prove effective in eradicating lice. Additionally, products like fipronil and selamectin (available under various brand names) can be employed. It might be necessary to administer treatment to your dog multiple times to eliminate hatching nits effectively. Adhere closely to your veterinarian’s instructions, as these products can be abrasive, particularly for puppies.

In instances where your dog’s fur is severely tangled, shaving the fur may be necessary to ensure access to deeper lice and their nits.

To prevent reinfestation, discard or launder all of your dog’s bedding, and thoroughly clean all areas your dog frequents. Items that can’t be washed may be securely sealed in plastic bags for several weeks. Disinfect all grooming tools and regularly used items such as crates, furniture, rugs, carpets, and hard flooring.

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