How Do Dogs Get Lice? [And How to Get Rid of Them]

CareHow Do Dogs Get Lice?

The most common way dogs contract lice is by being in direct contact with an infected dog. The direct contact could come from playing, sharing beds, leashes, food bowls, etc. Since lice cannot jump or fly, direct contact must be made.

If your dog is constantly scratching and licking itself, you might assume they have fleas. But fleas aren’t always the culprit. It could just as easily be lice!

Lice are tiny, six-legged, light-colored parasites who live on the pet’s skin, digging themselves deep into the fur.

You have probably heard of humans getting lice, right? Well, dogs are no exception. They get lice too, as well as ticks and fleas. Pretty gross, isn’t it?

As we all (two-legged and four-legged counterparts) enjoy the warm weather during spring, we often forget the fact that everything else “wakes up” during the spring as well. Not only the “good” insects but the “bad” ones as well (carrying various diseases), including lice.

How Do I Know if My Dog Has Lice?

Lice causes major skin irritation, hair loss, and in some severe cases, anemia. You may notice that your dog acts differently when it’s affected by these tiny predators. It may run around restlessly, not able to settle down, jumping from one spot to another.

It would also be constantly scratching the problem area. Scratching intervals could be very short – every 3-4 minutes. Sometimes, the dog may whine as it tries to shake the parasites off.

If your pup sheds a lot and you see many bold, rough spots, inspect these problem areas to see what’s causing it.

Usually, fully grown lice can be spotted by just examining the base of the hair. Part a dog’s fur and see if it has white or yellow spots that don’t come off if you run your fingers through their coat. If so, there’s a good chance your dog has lice (if it was dandruff, it would easily fall off the coat as you touch it).

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However, if you aren’t positive, it would be a good idea to visit the vet. A veterinarian can give you an exact diagnosis by examining a dog’s skin under a microscope.

If you find out your dog has lice, you might be puzzled at how they got it in the first place? Is it from walking in the park too long? Or did that friendly neighborhood dog have something to do with this?

How Dogs Get Lice

First, we need to make something clear – Lice can’t jump or fly, they can only crawl. If your pup was playing with another dog and suddenly you noticed constant scratching, it could mean that lice was transferred from dog to dog.

Or, let’s say you went away for a week and left your canine companion in the hands of kennel workers. The possibility of your dog getting lice is very high because it will be in close contact with other dogs.

These dogs will likely be playing with each other, sharing beds, leashes, food bowls, etc. Lice will easily crawl from one dog to the next and will start laying eggs right in the fur.

Worried that you may get lice from your dog? Don’t, because pet lice does not transfer onto humans and vice versa. Human lice will not inhabit a dog’s coat.

Are Lice Hazardous for a Dog’s Health?

They absolutely can be. Not only will they cause extreme skin irritation, but they can also cause anemia. One type of lice simply chews on the skin, which isn’t comfortable, but it’s not deadly. A different kind of lice survives by sucking the blood. A dog will lose a significant amount of blood if the infestation is severe.

In some cases, lice can transmit tapeworms. These are parasites that inhabit the intestines and can make an animal very sick.

Tapeworms can be easily spotted by completing one unpleasant task: observing your pooch’s feces after it relieves itself.

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If you see something moving, it is important to bring a fecal sample to the vet’s office for analysis.

Not too fond of doing this task? I didn’t think so. Maybe it’s best to prevent lice from appearing in the first place. Let’s jump right into steps for getting rid of lice and how to prevent lice in the future.

How to Get Rid of Lice

Use Flea and Tick Shampoo

The first step is to give your dog a bath with flea and tick shampoo. Thoroughly bathe your dog, paying attention to “high lice traffic areas” like the ears, back, neck and anus. Once you give your dog a bath, you are ready for step 2.

Use a Flea Comb

When your dog is dry, brush its coat with a flea comb to remove any remaining lice. After that, soak the comb for 15-20 minutes in the solution of water and flea shampoo you washed your dog with.

Apply Topical Medication

To “seal the deal” with lice, you need to apply topical medication like fipronil or permethrin. To find out exactly what should be administered, it is best to consult the vet clinic where your dog is a patient.

Wash Their Belongings

Now it’s time to wash all your dog’s belongings, such as the bedding, leashes, collars, toys, and clothes. This will ensure the removal of any lice or eggs in the household (it might be a good idea to add a little flea shampoo to your laundry detergent).

The larvae are almost impossible to see with the naked eye. That’s why it is necessary to sanitize everything the dog comes in contact with.

Isolate Your Dog

Keep the “furry patient” away from the other dogs in the household to prevent re-infestation. To be on the safe side, bathe all other dogs with the flea shampoo also, just in case they were exposed.

Stay away from dog parks/kennels for at least a week while your dog is in quarantine. After a week or two, bring your dog to the vet again to run some lice tests, just to make sure the problem is gone for good.

How to Prevent Lice

Now that you know how to get rid of the lice, let’s talk about how to prevent future infestations from happening.

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Be a Good Pet Parent

This one is a no-brainer, but still important to mention. Take good care of your furry friend, provide the best nutrition, hygiene (wash its bedding often and bathe it at least once a month), and grooming routine. Being a good pet parent will not only prevent lice, but just about any other parasite.

Be Selective With Socialization

Ensure safe socialization for your dog. It’s best to double-check with the other pet parents to see if their fur babies were vaccinated or aren’t currently undergoing lice treatment. Don’t be shy to ask about their medical records for peace of mind.

Regular Check-Ups

Another no-brainer. Bring your dog to the vet for regular check-ups. Staying up to date with all the vaccines and wellness exams is an effective way to prevent a lice infestation. The vet will notice the lice before they become a problem.

Know What’s Normal

Last but not least, observe your dog’s behavior. If you see a lot of body scratching/rubbing/biting, look to see if you can pinpoint what the issue might be. Know what your dog’s normal behavior is so you can notice anything abnormal.

Take Care of Lice ASAP

The experience of having lice is definitely not fun, especially for the victim. While dog lice do not pose a threat to humans (they are species specific), they can cause various health problems and affect your dog’s mood and behavior. As soon as a dog is diagnosed with lice, you must take all the necessary steps to nib the problem in the bud.

It is better to prevent lice problems than to deal with them after the fact. Take care of your pup and make sure you take it to the vet at least once a year.

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Bryan Harkins
Bryan Harkins
Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.

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