Lice (Pediculosis) in dogs

Lice are not common in dogs. They are found primarily on dogs who are rundown and poorly kept. Lice are usually found beneath matted hair around the ears, head, neck, shoulders, and in the perineal area. Because of the severe itching and constant irritation, bare spots may be seen where the hair has been rubbed off.

There are two species of lice: biting lice, which feed on skin scales, and sucking lice, which feed on the dog’s blood and can cause severe protein deficiency and anemia.

Adult lice are wingless, pale-colored insects about 2 to 3 millimeters long. Sucking lice move slowly; biting lice move quickly. The eggs, called nits, look like white grains of sand firmly attached to the hair. The diagnosis is made by visual identification of adult lice or nits. Nits may look something like flaky skin (dandruff), but inspection with a magnifying glass reveals the difference.

Treatment: Lice show little resistance to treatment and do not live long off their host. They are easily killed with most insecticides, including limesulfur, pyrethrins, and pyrethroids. The infected dog and all animals who have been in contact with her should be treated every 10 to 14 days for four weeks with an insecticide shampoo, dip, or powder. Infected bedding should be destroyed or thoroughly cleaned (lice do not live long off the host), and the dog’s sleeping quarters and grooming equipment disinfected.

Severely anemic dogs may require a blood transfusion or vitamins and iron supplements.

Prevention: Frontline Plus is labeled for control of lice.