DO NOT use human lice shampoo on your dog. If your dog has lice, use a shampoo that was made with dogs in mind. Dog’s skin has a pH level of 5.5 to 7.2. Human shampoo (even lice shampoo) was made for a pH level of 4 to 6.
It might feel like a nightmare to pet your dog, look down, and see something scuttling across his skin. Whether or not you have a fear of insects, the idea of the nasty creatures infesting your house and pets can feel overwhelming.
Lice treatment in dogs is a long, tedious process, but with your vet’s help, you can make it through and prevent any future infestations.
What You'll Learn
Treatment For Lice
Lice have a life cycle of two to four weeks and lay eggs frequently. If you are to rid your dog of lice, you will need to stick to a treatment regimen for at least a month to kill the lice at every stage.
It is also common to use two types of medications at once, one to kill the existing lice and one to prevent the hatching of more eggs.
The first step to killing lice is a monthly medication like Advantage or Revolution. These medications prevent parasites on your dog from laying eggs and protect against heartworm.
It is recommended to start your dog on one of these medications when he is healthy. It will keep you from having to deal with infestations in the first place.
If you start your dog on this medication when he is already infested, it will likely take two doses to fully clear up. It can be used along with some anti-parasite shampoo that kills the existing lice. Avoid mixing treatments without approval from your vet.
Lice Shampoo For Dogs
Insecticides and insect-killing shampoos effectively destroy living lice but don’t kill eggs before they hatch.
Apply the treatment routinely for four weeks and follow any instructions about leaving the treatment on the skin for 5-10 minutes before rinsing.
Apply this treatment to the other pets in your household, even if they are asymptomatic. However, products containing permethrin are highly toxic to cats. Cats can be exposed even by touching a dog treated by permethrin, so do not use it at all if you own a cat.
Products containing pyrethrins and pyrethroids are not as toxic but should not be used on cats in large doses.
Sulfurated lime, or “lime sulfur dip”, is a dip or rinse treatment used every 5-7 days. It can harm both mites and lice. Follow all instructions when applying the sulfurated lime so that it works effectively.
This treatment has a powerful, unpleasant smell, so it is best to apply it outside or in a well-ventilated room. Be aware that it can stain light-colored dogs temporarily. Don’t allow your dog to lick the treatment.
Pyrethrins, pyrethroids, methoprene, and permethrin are all common ingredients in lice shampoo and treatments. Unlike sulfurated lime, high doses can make your dog feel sick, so stick carefully to the recommended doses.
To inspect your dog and see if the treatment is working, search his hair with a flea comb. If there are small white or yellow seed-like items sticking to the comb, your dog still has lice eggs on him.
This check should be performed for several months after you initially find the infestation. It may seem tedious, but if you stop treatment too soon, you will probably have to start the entire process over again.
What Exactly Are Lice?
Lice are wingless insects with strong claws that allow them to cling to their host’s hair, where they lay eggs called “nits” that also stick tightly to the host.
Unlike fleas or mites, lice are large enough to see with the naked eye. Lice are not as common among dogs as fleas or mites, especially in urban or developed areas.
There are two types of lice, though they are treated with the same tools. Chewing lice eat dead skin from the surface of their host’s body. Sucking lice feed on blood. In a very small or young dog, they can actually take a dangerous amount of blood and cause weakness and anemia.
Many dogs with lice are sick, elderly, feral, or not medicated with preventative flea, tick, and worm medication. Because lice are transmitted between dogs, they can sometimes appear on dogs who spend a lot of time at kennels, daycare, dog parks, or training classes.
If you own multiple dogs, keep your infected dog isolated. You should also consider treating your other dogs and cats with species-appropriate anti-parasite shampoo, even if they have not shown signs of infection.
Symptoms and Concerns of Lice
Lice can cause a long list of symptoms in your dog. The most notable sign for any type of parasite is excessive itching and scratching, as well as inflamed skin. If you aren’t sure what kind of parasite your dog has, ask your vet.
If you are feeling brave, you can also inspect your dog’s fur. Mites are too small to see, while fleas are light in color and move quickly. Lice are darker and move more slowly.
Comb your dog with a flea comb and examine any white particulate. If it falls off the comb easily, it is dandruff. If it sticks to the comb, you are probably looking at lice eggs, or “nits”.
If your dog has lice, you might also see symptoms such as matted fur and small wounds on your dog’s skin.
It is very common to see hair loss in the form of bald spots. Pay special attention to the ear, neck, shoulder, and groin areas. If your dog appears weak or lethargic, he might be suffering from anemia due to blood loss, though this is uncommon.
Lice are known to transfer parasites such as tapeworm to your dog, especially if your dog eats any of the lice. If your dog has worms in conjunction with hair loss, ask your vet about lice. Your vet will confirm the presence of lice and perform tests to find any secondary issues that need to be treated.
As with other parasites, lice can lay eggs in your home and the surrounding environment. Your dog can be infested repeatedly if you don’t clean your home and exterminate the lice. Repeated contact with lice can weaken your dog and cause him needless suffering.
Completely Removing The Lice
The good news about lice is that they are very species specific. The lice that plague humans are not the same ones that attach to dogs. Each type of lice has a different type of hook to attach effectively to specific hair types.
Lice from your dog may attach to you, but they will not lay eggs or take up residence. However, the lice from your dog will happily take up residence in your household and wait to attach to other pets. This can also cause repeated infections on the same dog.
When cleaning to remove lice from the house, start up high in each room and work your way to the floor so that you don’t knock lice down onto areas you have already cleaned.
Clean all of your bedding in hot water, and check other soft pieces of furniture for lice or lice eggs.
If you are concerned about the humans in your household, you can wash all clothes and even use human lice shampoo on your family members, just in case. Remember, however, that dog lice are not the same as human lice.
You can wash all of your dog’s bedding, blankets, and clothes in hot water. You can also wash your dog’s toys and clean or replace his leash and collar. Throw away your dog’s combs and brushes because these likely carry nits.
Dealing with a lice infestation is no fun, mostly because it can last for over a month. Quarantining your pet and carefully applying all the medications your vet recommends can set you on the path to success, hopefully for good!
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