Can Dogs Have Lice? How to Avoid Them

can dogs have lice

Every person who has a dog has likely wondered at some point, “Can dogs get lice?” This piece is designed to provide you with everything you need to know about lice infestations in dogs.

We’ll explore the different types of lice that can affect dogs, uncover the telltale signs and symptoms, how to treat dog lice to watch out for and provide you with effective strategies to deal with and treat lice to prevent these pesky parasites from bothering your furry companion. Your pup’s well-being is our priority, so let’s embark on this journey to ensure a lice-free and happy life for your four-legged friend.

Table of Contents

Can Dogs Have Lice? Do Dogs Carry Lice? (The Short Answer)

Yes, dogs can indeed have lice. These tiny parasites can infest a dog’s coat, leading to itching and discomfort. There are different types of dog lice, but they all share common signs like scratching hair loss, and irritability. Proper grooming, regular checkups, and maintaining a clean environment are keys to preventing and addressing lice infestations in dogs.

Life Cycle of Lice in Dogs

Lice have a relatively simple life cycle compared to other parasites. They do not jump or fly; they primarily spread through direct contact between infested and noninfested animals. The life cycle of lice consists of several stages that revolve around their development and reproduction. There, lice are species specific three main stages: eggs (nits), nymphs, and adults.

Eggs (Nits)

Female lice lay eggs, called nits, which are usually attached to the dog’s hair shafts near the skin. Nits are oval and small, often white or yellowish in color. They are firmly glued to the hair shaft, and can be challenging to remove. Nits take about a week to hatch.


 Once the nits hatch, they release nymphs. Nymphs resemble smaller versions of adult lice and undergo a series of molts as they develop into adults. This process typically takes a few weeks.

Adult Lice

 Nymphs mature into adult lice. Adult lice are larger and capable of reproduction. They continue the cycle by laying eggs on the host’s hair, perpetuating the infestation.

Symptoms of Lice in Dogs: What Are The Signs of Dog Lice?

Lice in dogs can be concerning, as these parasites can cause discomfort and irritation for our furry friends. Recognizing the symptoms of lice in dogs is crucial for promptly addressing the issue and ensuring the well-being of your pet.

Intense Scratching and Irritation

 One of the most common signs of dog lice is excessive scratching. Dogs infested with lice will scratch, bite, or lick themselves persistently to alleviate the itchiness caused by the lice bites. This can result in redness, inflammation, and even bacterial infections.

Hair Loss and Bald Patches

 Lice can lead to dog fur loss. You might notice bald patches or areas where the fur appears thin and damaged due to constant scratching and grooming to relieve the itching sensation.

Restlessness and Discomfort

Dogs and young puppies with lice may exhibit restlessness and discomfort. They might be unable to settle down, constantly shifting positions, or pacing around due to the discomfort caused by the lice crawling on their skin.

Irritated Skin and Redness

Lice bites can cause irritation, small wounds, and redness on the dog’s skin due to dog scratching. This can be particularly noticeable in areas where lice tend to congregate, such as around the ears, neck, groin, and underbelly.

Visible Lice and Nits

Although lice are small and can be challenging to spot, a close inspection of your dog’s fur might reveal tiny, crawling lice. Additionally, you might notice small white or yellowish oval eggs, known as nits, attached to the hair shafts close to the skin.

Dull Coat and Poor Condition

 Dogs with lice might develop a dull and unkempt coat due to constant scratching, biting, and grooming. The overall condition of the fur can deteriorate, and the dog’s appearance may lose its usual luster.

Behavioral Changes

 Dog lice symptoms also include behavioral changes. They could become more irritable, anxious, or even lethargic due to the discomfort and distress caused by the parasites.

Two Types of Lice Infesting Dogs  Can Lice Live in Dog Hair

There are two primary types of lice that can infest dogs: chewing lice (Trichodectes canis) and sucking lice (Linognathus setosus).

Chewing Lice Dogs

Chewing lice on dogs (Mallophaga) are parasitic insects that can infest dogs and other mammals. These lice do not feed on blood. Instead, they feed on skin’s debris, hair, and other organic matter found on the host’s skin. These lice use their specialized mouthparts to chew on these materials. 

While chewing species of lice infestation in dogs are generally not as harmful as sucking louse infestations, they can still lead to itching, irritation, and discomfort. Regular grooming and maintaining a clean living environment are essential in preventing and managing chewing louse infestation in dogs. If an infestation can a dog get lice is suspected, consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treating lice promtly.

Sucking Lice

This is a type of parasitic insect that infests various mammals, including dogs. Unlike chewing lice and dogs, which feed on debris, the louse pierces the host’s skin with their specialized mouthparts to consume blood. In dogs, the species Linognathus setosus is a common type of louse.

 Infestations can lead to discomfort, itching, and skin irritation. Dogs with sucking-species lice may exhibit symptoms like scratching, restlessness, and hair loss. Preventing and treating sucking lice involves maintaining good hygiene, regular grooming with good shampoos, and prompt veterinary care if infestations are suspected.

Is Dog Lice the Same as Human Lice?

No, dog lice and human lice are not the same. While they belong to the same group of insects, they are different species adapted to their respective hosts. 

Dog lice (Trichodectes canis and Linognathus setosus) are specialized to infest dogs, living on their fur and feeding on their blood or skin’s debris. Human lice, on the other hand, include head lice, body lice, and pubic lice, each adapted to infest humans and residing on specific parts of the body. These lice species are host-specific and rarely cross over to infest other species, although it’s possible in rare instances.

Can I Get Lice From My Dog? Can You get lice from dogs? Do Dogs Get Lice from Humans? Can humans get dog lice?

While it’s rare, it is possible for lice to transfer between dogs and humans, though dog lice (Trichodectes canis and Linognathus setosus) typically prefer canine hosts. Human-louse species are more adapted to infesting humans. If you maintain proper hygiene and cleanliness, your chances of contracting lice are very low. Dog lice vs human lice are different. Animal lice don’t usually harm humans and vice a versa.

Dog lice usually don’t thrive on human hosts, and any potential infestation is usually short-lived. However, if you notice any unusual itching or skin irritation after close contact with an infested dog, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional to rule out any potential issues.

Causes of Lice in Dogs – Can Lice Get on Dogs

Blood sucking lice in dogs can be attributed to various factors, primarily stemming from contact and environmental conditions. 

Close Contact with Infested Animals

Dogs congregate in boarding kennels and dog hostels and can acquire lice through close interaction with infested animals or through exposure to contaminated objects like bedding, brushes hot water, or shared living spaces.

The parasites crawl from host to host, making dogs spend time in crowded environments, such as shelters or kennels, more susceptible. Lice infestation is more common in situations where hygiene practices are compromised.

Minimizing contact with unfamiliar or infested animals, especially in communal areas, can reduce the risk. If your dog does or other dogs get lice infested, consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. With proper care, attention to cleanliness, and prompt intervention, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of lice infestation in your canine companion.

Poor Grooming- Answer to Can my dog get lice?

Dogs with matted hair are more likely to develop lice. The female lice glue to the dirty coat and give rise to eggs hatch and larva. They feed on dead skin cells, skin’s debris, and dog’s blood. The entire life cycle then repeats.

Weakened Immunity- Can dog get lice due to poor immunity

Additionally, dogs with weakened immune systems or those under stress are more prone to lice infestation. Puppies, elderly dogs, or those suffering from other health issues are particularly vulnerable. Poor grooming habits can also contribute, as regular grooming helps remove and detect lice and nits.

Lice vs. Fleas  Detailed Comparison – Do Dogs Have Lice of Fleas

Lice and fleas are both external parasites that can affect animals, including dogs, but they have distinct differences in terms of appearance, behavior, life cycle, and effects on their hosts. Here’s a detailed comparison between pet lice in dogs and lice on fleas:


 Lice are small, wingless insects that have flattened bodies. They have specialized mouthparts for feeding on skin debris, blood, or hair shaft. Lice are generally longer and narrower in shape, with six legs and a segmented body.

Fleas are also wingless insects, but they are more laterally compressed, giving them a side-to-side appearance. They have powerful hind legs adapted for jumping, allowing them to move easily through the fur of other animals.

Feeding Behavior

  Lice have different feeding habits based on the species. Chewing lice feed on skin debris, hair, and other organic matter while sucking lice pierce the host’s skin to feed on blood.

 Fleas are blood-feeding parasites. They have specialized mouthparts designed for piercing the skin and siphoning blood from their hosts.

Life Cycle

 Unlike fleas, lice undergo a simple metamorphosis with three stages: eggs (nits), nymphs, and adults. Nits are laid on hair shafts near the skin and hatch into nymphs, which mature into adult lice.

 Fleas have a more complex life cycle, including egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. The eggs are laid in the host’s fur but fall into the environment. Larvae and pupae develop in the environment before emerging as adult fleas.

Movement- Can Dogs Give You Lice

 Species specific lice move by crawling. They don’t jump or fly, and they typically spread through direct contact between infested animals. Fleas are agile jumpers. They can leap many times their body length, allowing them to move between hosts and their environment easily.

Effects on Hosts – Can Dog Lice Live on humans?

 Dogs with lice can suffer itching, irritation, and hair loss. They can lead to secondary skin infections due to excessive scratching. Flea infestations result in intense itching and scratching. Flea bites can cause allergic reactions, leading to dermatitis in some dogs. Fleas can also transmit diseases like tapeworms and Bartonella bacteria (causing cat scratch fever) to both dogs and humans.

Treatment of Lice in Dogs – How To Get Rid of Lice on Dogs?

Using pet-friendly insecticides or lice shampoo for dogs, topical treatments, and dog shampoo is an effective approach to get rid of lice in dogs.

Note: Always consult your veterinarian before using any insecticides or shampoos on your dog, especially if your dog has any preexisting health conditions or is on other medications. Your vet may need skin scraping to diagnose lice. Lice are species specific and the vet may need skin abrasions to eliminate these six legged insects.

Materials Needed – How To Get Rid of Dog Lice At Home Fast?

  •  Pet-friendly insecticide spray or powder
  •  Pet-friendly lice-killing dog shampoo
  •  Towels
  •  Grooming tools/ flea comb or brush
  •  Warm water
  •  Treats (for positive reinforcement)

Steps for Lice Treatment for dogs

  • Clip matted hair if the dog shows lice. This will remove hiding spots for the lice.
  • Isolate and Prepare Your Dog- Set up a bathing area in a well-ventilated space. Use hot water and moisten your dog’s coat thoroughly. Keep your dog calm and provide treats for positive reinforcement.
  • Apply Lice-Killing or flea-killing Shampoo– Apply the pet-friendly lice-killing dog shampoo all over your dog’s coat. Follow the instructions on the shampoo bottle for the appropriate amount to use.
  • Gently massage the shampoo into the coat, ensuring it reaches the skin. Pay extra attention to areas where lice are most likely to congregate, such as around the ears, neck, underbelly, and tail.
  •  Leave the shampoo on for the recommended time –Most lice-killing shampoos require a specific amount of time to work effectively. Follow the instructions on the shampoo bottle for the recommended duration to eliminate every blood sucking louse.
  •  Rinse Thoroughly: After the recommended time, thoroughly rinse your dog’s coat with warm water until all the shampoo is washed out.
  •  Towel Dry: Gently towel dry your dog to remove excess water. Keep your dog warm during this process.
  •  Apply pet-safe Insecticide: Once your dog is mostly dry, apply the pet-friendly insecticide spray or powder as directed on the product label. Ensure you cover the entire coat, focusing on areas prone to infestations.
  • Remove dead lice with flea combs. Use dog sweaters to prevent lice from dropping off and to make the insecticide spray effective in killing every biting louse.

Preventing Lice in Dogs

Use Lice Comb 

 Use a fine-toothed comb, grooming tools, or brush to carefully comb through your dog’s coat. This helps remove dead lice and nits. Comb in the direction of hair growth and be gentle to avoid irritating your dog’s skin.

Repeat Shampooing

For severe infestations affects dogs or if your dogs get lice frequently, you may need to repeat the shampoo and insecticide treatment on the hair coat as recommended by your veterinarian or the product instructions.

Treat Your Dog’s Environment

Can dog lice live in carpet? yes, and dog lice eggs too. Therefore, every dog owner must wash dog’s bedding, toys, vacuum and clean any other items they frequently come into contact with pet’s fur to prevent re-infestation. Remember that consistent prevention and hygiene practices are essential to avoid future lice. Regular grooming, keeping your dog’s living space clean, and minimizing exposure to potential lice infested animals will help prevent lice from returning.


What does lice look like on dogs? Can dogs get lice? What does dog lice look like?

Yes, as per the Merck veterinary manual, dogs can get lice. Lice on dogs appear as small, flat, wingless insects clinging to the dog’s fur. They can be white, yellow, or tan in color and are usually about the size of a sesame seed. Nits (lice eggs) may also be visible near the base of the hair shafts, appearing as tiny oval or round specks attached to the fur.

How do you get rid of lice on dogs? Can you use lice shampoo on dogs?

To get rid of lice on dogs, use the best dog lice treatment which is dog lice shampoo. Bathe them using lice-killing dog shampoo, thoroughly rinse, and towel dry. Comb through the fur with a fine-toothed comb to remove lice and nits. Consult a veterinarian for guidance, and consider using pet-friendly insecticides if recommended.

Does dog shampoo kill lice?

No, not all dog shampoos can kill lice can dogs get live them. Look for medicinal shampoos to kill lice on dogs.

What home remedy kills lice on dogs? How to get rid of dog lice naturally?

Vinegar can help eliminate dog lice. Spray some diluted apple cider or distilled vinegar and comb out your pet with a lice comb.

Is coconut oil good for dog lice infestation?

You can use coconut oil for its lauric acid to eliminate lice and nits in dogs. But, you also need to use other insecticides for severe adult louse infestations.

Will flea shampoo kill lice?

Yes, flea shampoo can kill lice.


Dog lice can be annoying to you and your dog. Lice can cause a plethora of symptoms and lead to a poor quality of life for your pet. Proper hygiene practices, regular grooming, and health checkups can prevent dog lice and keep your buddy safe.

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