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Dog Lice

What is Dog Lice?

Dog lice is a rare condition in which one of two types of lice latch onto a canine and begin a colony, using your dog’s blood or dead skin for nutrition.

They are generally quite small, growing a maximum of one-twelfth of an inch in length. They are flat in shape, and move very slowly. The parasites themselves are grey, and have no wings.

How can I keep my dog from becoming infected?

As mentioned earlier, lice is rare among dogs, and not something that requires constant inspection. However there are a few measures you can take to help prevent the contraction of lice. Try not to share grooming supplies with other dog owners, as this is one of the more common ways lice is contracted. If your dog comes into contact with a strange dog, make sure to give them a visual inspection. If you have to leave your dog at a kennel or at a friend’s house, inspect your dog after bringing them home. If you can catch lice early, before they breed, it will save you a lot of trouble.

How can I tell if my dog has been infected?

One external sign of lice on a dog is excessive scratching. If you think your dog may have been infected by lice, take a comb and go through their fur. They will either be attached to the hair follicles, or directly on your dogs skin. You may see eggs as well, which are small, white and usually sticky. Lice are small, but can be seen by the human eye. They look like little black dots with a clear lining over them. They may resemble dirt, since they do not move frequently. If you are in any way unsure about if your dog has lice, take your dog to a professional groomer and they will be able to identify if your dog is infected.

What can I do if my dog has become infected with lice?

If you have confirmed that your dog has indeed contracted lice, you have a couple of treatment options available. There are many over-the-counter lice shampoos available at many stores that will clear up the infestation. Likewise, some professional groomers are able to remove lice for you, if you are unable or unwilling to do so yourself.

Whatever you do, it is important to be consistent and thorough to prevent the chance of lice coming back.

Causes and Transmission of Dog Lice

The condition known as dog lice is very rare in the United States, although it has been known to happen. The chances of a healthy family dog becoming infected are almost nonexistent. However, coming into contact with lice is possible in places such as dog parks, walking trails and even another dog’s bedding.

There are two types of lice your dog can come in contact with. Fortunately both are fairly easy to spot, and treatment is affordable. Both types of lice can only be transferred by direct contact with another dog, and neither can infect any other animal or human. These types of lice are canine specific.

Biting Mallophaga

The first type of lice your dog may come in contact with is Biting Mallophaga, sometimes simply referred to as “biting lice”. This type of lice feeds on dead flakes of skin residing on your dog. Out of the two, these are easier to spot on a dog as they tend to cling onto your dogs fur.

Sucking Linognathus Piliferus Setosus

The second type of lice your dog may come into contact with is known as Sucking Linognathus Piliferus Setosus, sometimes referred to as “sucking lice”. This type of lice feeds on the blood of your dog, and tends to be the more irritating to your dog than the biting kind. They are also much harder to spot because they attach themselves directly onto a dog’s skin.

How can my dog contract lice?

The only way for your dog to become infected with lice is by direct contact with it. Be particularly careful when sharing grooming supplies with other dogs, as this is a common form of transmission. If your dog plays with other dogs at parks or over a friend’s house, be wary of the possibility. A quick scan of their fur once they are done is simple and fast. If you take your dog for walks, be mindful of filthy areas your dog may be exploring.

Where can my dog contract lice?

Unfortunately, the answer is potentially anywhere. However, your dog is much more likely to contract lice in an environment where there is a daily abundance of dogs. Kennels, dog parks, training schools, and walking trails are all prime areas that may possibly have lice. It is important to give your dog a quick check anytime he or she plays in any of these environments.

Symptoms of Dog Lice

A clean and healthy dog has almost no chance of contracting lice in the United States. However, if it does happen, there are several visible symptoms you can easily recognize. Although lice are easy to see once you know your dog is infected, the initial recognition can be difficult for a typical pet owner. Luckily your dog will be well aware of the infestation, and will begin displaying symptoms.

As with any medical condition, it is important to keep watch over any changes in your dog’s normal behavior, as this could possibly be indicative of a medical problem.

Excess Itching and Scratching

Excess itching and scratching may be one sign of a lice infection. However, this symptom may also be indicative of other medical conditions (such as skin disorders). The best way to ascertain the cause of your dog’s itching is to perform a visual inspection. If you notice your dog scratching more than usual, take a moment to inspect their fur. Most skin disorders manifest primarily as flaking, red, bumpy or abnormal skin. However, even if you are not able to spot a potential problem, excessive itching is enough reason to bring your dog in for a veterinary checkup.

Visible Lice

When you inspect your dogs fur, be on the lookout for a lice infection. Lice are small, flat light brown spots on or close to your dogs skin. They are very slow moving, and cannot jump or fly due to their lack of wings. Sometimes owners mistake them for dirt, so be thorough in your examination. If possible, take a blow dryer and go over your dog with it on high-power. This separates the fur and reveals the skin, making it much easier to identify the lice.

Visible Eggs

During your inspection of your dog, you may come across small white dots held on to your dogs fur by a sticky glue-like substance. These are lice eggs, and their presence may indicate to you that your dog has been infected for some time. These are often the hardest to remove from your pet, so if you see lice eggs, be sure to be very thorough when performing treatment.

One female lice can lay up to one hundred eggs on a single dog. The average lice organism lives for a short 21 days. However, with their active reproductive rates, your dog can contract thousands of lice in almost no time at all.

Dog Lice Treatment

If your dog was unfortunate enough to contract lice, there are a few treatment options available. Depending on the severity of the infestation, it may be wise to consult with your veterinarian on the best course of action. Whatever you decide to do, it is important you are very thorough to lessen the chances of a second infestation.

For pregnant Dams, and puppies over six weeks old, it is vital you consult your veterinarian before you take any course of action.

Pyrethrin-based Shampoos

There are several pyrethrin-based shampoos available on the market that will remove all the lice from your dog if used as directed. Most veterinarians recommend bathing your dog with your shampoo of choice every seven days, until all of the lice have died. It is recommended you lather your dog with the shampoo and let it sit for ten minutes before rinsing them off. This ensures maximum efficiency.

Lotions, Sprays, and Gels

If for some reason you decide against using a shampoo to remove your dog’s lice, you have other options available to you. Veterinary medicine companies such as Frontline, Advantage, Advantiks, or Revolution all have different products that are suitable for ridding your dog of an infestation. These treatments include gel-based medication you place between your dog’s shoulder blades, as well as lotion you apply directly on their skin. For some owners, these solutions are more convenient for them, and they tend to do just as good of a job.

For pregnant mothers and newborn puppies, veterinarians tend to recommend Revolution, as the product is more gentle on the infected dog.

Professional Groomers

For those pet owners that are not able to treat their dogs, or would rather pay someone else to do it, some professional groomers will treat the problem for you. Professional groomers are also a wise choice if you are not confident in your ability to kill all of your dogs lice.

After Treatment

Immediately after you are done treating your dog, it is important that you clean your entire house. Give special attention to your dog’s bed, toys, and grooming supplies. It is recommended that you wash your dog’s bedding twice, and dry it on high heat to ensure all lice are killed. Check back over your dog periodically after treatment, to make sure that the lice are truly gone. Pay special attention to your dogs fur, because eggs can be difficult to spot.

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