Canine lice (Pediculosis) are also known as Ectoparasites (this means that they live on the skin). Other types of Ectoparasites are fleas, ticks, mange mites (including Sarcoptes Scabiei, Demodex folliculorum, Otodectes cynotis and Cheyletiella specie).
The scientific name for lice is Trichodectes canis – and they live on the skin where they lay their eggs (nits) on their hosts hair (your dog)! After the eggs have hatched the immature offspring have a close resemblance to fully developed adults. Canine lice will spend their entire life cycle on your pet as they are unable to survive for more than a few days without a host. It is very important to mention that these nasty little parasites are highly contagious and if you have a household of pets then it is quite likely that they will have come into contact with the parasites and therefore will also become infested.
What do lice look like
Well they are pretty ugly really – they are obviously very tiny (around 2- 3 Millimeters long, although they can be seen by the naked eye). The lice are brown in color, fat and are wingless. Although their legs are short they are able to walk slowly along the body of your dog (or pet) and will lay their eggs on the hair. If you suspect that your pooch has been infested with canine lice pay close attention to around your dog’s ears and neck as this is where the eggs are normally found (stuck to the hair). The eggs are also referred to as nits and resemble grains of sand (white in color). The nits can also look like your dog has flaky skin (Dandruff) but if you examine the eggs a little closer you will be able to tell that they are in fact nits.
Symptoms of Canine Lice
There are two types of lice that affect dogs (both types are fairly rare). One variety (biting lice) will feed quickly on skin scales moving quickly over your dog or pet. The other type (sucking lice) move less quickly and will attach themselves to your dog or pet sucking blood (causing a variety of symptoms including anemia, and protein deficiency). The most common symptom that your pet will experience is frantic itching and localized hair loss where there has been repeated scratching.
What is the treatment for canine lice?
These nasty little Ectoparasites are one of the easiest to kill and get rid of. As previously mentioned they do not live for long off of their host and are easily destroyed by a range of prescribed insecticides including lime-sulfur, pyrethroids and pyrethrins. It is important that your infected dog is treated every ten to fourteen days (over the course of a month) with a prescribed insecticide dip, powder or shampoo.
You should also destroy any infected blankets or toys (whatever has come into contact with your pooch). Thoroughly clean (disinfect) any area where your pet has lived or slept and treat any other pet in the property (or that has come into contact with your dog). If you have recently groomed your pet make sure that you disinfect any equipment. Frontline Plus is very effective and is marketed at controlling canine lice.
If your pooch has been infested with biting lice then he or she may need a blood transfusion or iron and vitamin supplements.
One of the best ways to reduce the chances of your pooch becoming infested with these horrible little parasites have your pooch groomed on a regular basis as not only will this enable another professional to be involved in the care of your pet (they will also be more experienced in being able to spot any parasitic infestation whether it is lice, fleas, ticks or something else).
Can dogs pass lice to humans?
No is the simple answer – these Ectoparasites are only found on dogs and puppies and can’t be passed to humans (and the same vice versa). The human form of lice is different and is only found on humans.
Did you know?
In this fun section we have listed lots of interesting facts about these nasty little parasites…!
1. The female is capable of laying as many as one hundred eggs (or ‘nits’). Each little egg has a sticky substance that enables them to stick to the dog’s hair more effectively (this is why they can be tricky to get rid of).
2. Lice also have quite effective claws on each individual leg (they have six legs). This also enables them to cling to the hair extremely well. Even when your dog scratches or attempts to get rid of the lice they can still cling on (even after repeated attempts by the dog to get rid of them).
3. Lice will complete their entire life cycle on their host (your dog). After been laid by the female they will hatch into nymphs. They will then molt several times before they become adults. After being laid the eggs will develop into adults within about two weeks. However the whole egg to egg cycle will take slightly longer (up to six weeks).
4. Lice that chew are referred to as ‘Trichodectes canis’ and lice that suck blood are known as ‘Linognathus setosus’.
5. If your dog is infested with ‘Linognathus setosus’ (the blood sucking lice) make sure you pay close attention the neck and head area when you brush, groom or treat your dog as this is where this type of lice tend to accumulate.
6. Once your dog has been treated it may be beneficial to treat the affected dog a week later so that any nymphs that are still attached to the dog are destroyed.
7. Lice can be debilitating for a dog that is infested. Not only can they cause frantic itching they can also cause sleep deprivation too. If you think your dog is infested try and have him treated as soon as possible.
8. If you suspect that your dog may have lice then try and get as close as you can as you will be able to tell the difference between lice and fleas. Fleas are speedy little critters and lice are fairly slow and tortoise like. Lice are paler in color too (fleas are quite dark).