Dog Lice: Prevention & Natural Treament
Many dog owners’ first thoughts when they hear the term "dog lice" are… Oh no! First my toddler, now I have to worry about the dog getting infested?!
Let's get to the good news right up front, that way the rest won't seem all that bad. Dog lice can not be transferred to humans nor can human lice be transferred to dogs.
- What are they?
- How can your dog come in contact?
- What is their life cycle?
- Can they harm your dog?
- What are the most effective natural treatments?
- How can you prevent them from returning?
Dog lice are not commonly found on dogs in the United States. Dogs that live in a clean environment and receive regular grooming have a slim chance of contracting them, while poorly nourished dogs are more likely to attract and retain them.
They are slightly smaller than fleas and are a lighter color, more like beige or tan. And fortunately they cannot jump from host to host like human lice can. They are actually very slow moving, almost motionless on the skin of the dog.
There are two main types of lice that can attach themselves to your dog. (Don’t fear the technical terms for these varmints…they are slightly scary!)
- Sucking (linognathus piliferus setosus) - feed on the blood of the dog and in turn can be more irritating to the dog.
- Biting (trichodectes canis) - feed on the dead skin flakes of skin which rest on the body of the dog.
The human kind like our hair because we keep it nice and clean whereas the dog kind prefer the dirt and oil on the hair of our dogs. Lice on dogs are quite easy to spot on the hair and skin, especially when you are looking for them.
The fleas attach their eggs with a type of glue substance to the hair of the dog. The eggs are the most stubborn and resistant to treatments.
As previously stated, dog lice are quite rare in the U.S., and the chance of a young, healthy dog contracting them is very small.
But... dogs do still come in contact with these varmints and it is possible for one dog to spread them to another dog. Since dog fleas can’t jump, there has to be physical contact between the dogs in order to pass them on.
What are the most common places for dogs to contract lice? It could happen anywhere, but the most likely spots are the obvious…dog parks, walking trails, grooming instruments, and other dogs' bedding, just to name a few.
The female lice can lay up to 100 eggs (also called nits), which are attached to the hair follicle with a glue like substance. The "glue" makes the eggs much more difficult to get rid of.
The life cycle takes just about 21 days to complete, so if they go untreated, your dog could be home to thousands of lice in a very short amount of time.
Dog lice are annoying, stubborn and sometimes itchy, but they are not harmful to your dog.
If your dog has contracted the kind that sucks blood, then there will be more irritation, itching and biting of the skin. All that you can do is to try to get rid of them as soon as you can! Read on...
There are a few very effective treatments for dogs with lice. Fortunately, lice are the easiest parasite to treat because they are not active in our environment like fleas and ticks.
Here are a few recommended natural treatments:
- Bathe your dog daily with a good natural dog shampoo such as Tropiclean Oatmeal Shampoo. Leave the lather on the hair for ten minutes.
- After bathing your dog, try applying a natural lemon rinse, also effective for the treatment of fleas and ticks. This lemon rinse will help to slowly kill of the remaining eggs. See our Dog Flea Medicine page to learn how to make and use an effective natural lemon rinse.
- Removing the eggs attached to the hair follicles is the most difficult part of eliminating them. Try rubbing mayonnaise into the hair of your dog and massaging with your fingertips. This may help to loosen the eggs and then you can follow up with a nice firm shampooing to wash the eggs down the drain.
If you have tried all of these natural treatments and you still have a problem, ask your veterinarian or one of our veterinarians for additional recommendations and possibly a stronger, more potent potion.
One of the effective barriers is optimum health! We say this a lot throughout the articles here on OPD, but it is truly to most important first step in the prevention of most conditions and diseases.
Keep your dog healthy and their chance of contracting a pesky parasite like lice is much less likely.
It is also important to keep your dogs bedding as clean as possible. Wash it at least weekly with a natural detergent like Ecos-Pet Laundry Detergent for Dogs and Cats.
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