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Lice and hair lice in dogs - recognise and treat

What's going on again today? Are you wondering why your pet seems so restless and irritable lately? Maybe you've also noticed that your four-legged friend is scratching or rubbing more often - then you should start looking for parasites. In addition to ticks, fleas and mites, hair lice and lice are also annoying little animals that can make life difficult for your four-legged friend. In this article, we explain how to recognise lice and hair lice and what you can do to get rid of them!

What hair lice and lice look like in dogs – the symptoms

Typical signs of lice or hair lice are, as some have already mentioned:

  • Uneasiness
  • irritability and
  • Itching, but also
  • unpleasant-smelling, flaky skin or
  • Hair loss

You can recognize the small parasites by looking at the

  • sticky, white nits (eggs), usually on the hairline as well as on the
  • adult light or yellowish creepy crawlies of up to 2 mm in size.

Dogs in poor husbandry, kennel dogs, strays, hunting dogs (for example, when they sniff fox burrows in the forest), dogs with weakened immune systems, old animals or even puppies are more likely to be affected.

Lice and hair lice in dogs – the consequences

How dangerous are these ectoparasites for your pet? We have the most important information for you!

Lice in dogs:

An infestation with the dog louse (Linognathus setosus) does not happen very often. She pierces the skin with her mouthparts to suck blood.

  • Tiny wounds develop, which can become inflamed, especially due to invading bacteria – crusts and eczema on the skin are the result.
  • These secondary infections in particular can be painful for our four-legged friends.
  • A severe dog lice infestation can also lead to hair loss and bald patches in the dog's coat.
  • Puppies are even at risk of anaemia!
  • As a rule, lice do not transmit diseases.

Hair lice in dogs:

Hairlice (Trichodectes canis) belong to the biting lice and jaw lice. They feed on dander or scrape the skin with their mouthparts.

  • The skin there is damaged, the itching encourages the dogs to scratch themselves and injuries to the skin become even more likely.
  • Here, too, scabs, eczema, skin inflammation and infections can occur.
  • Hairlice also pose a danger because they serve as a host for worms and can transmit them.

Does my dog have lice or fleas?

Here you can see the differences between the unpleasant tormentors at a glance:

  • Fleas:

approx. 1.5–4.5 mm in size


red dots on the skin, often in a line

leave flea droppings in the fur,

recognisable by dark crumbs that leave crushed red spots

  • Lice:

approx. 0.8–2.1 mm in size

prick with their mouthparts

suck blood

pale, sticky nits

adult: wingless, light-coloured creepy crawlies

  • Hairlings:

approx. 1.5–2 mm in size

feed on skin flakes or

Scrape off skin with their mouthparts

bright, sticky nits

fully grown: yellowish insects with broad heads

Treatment for lice and hair lice

Even though natural home remedies are the first choice in many cases, if you suspect that your dog may be infested with hair lice or lice, be sure to see your veterinarian. They will be able to recommend an individually suitable treatment method for you. In order to make a diagnosis, a fur sample with supposed nits or the animals is often carefully examined.

If the result is positive, the veterinarian will then recommend a suitable remedy to combat lice and hair lice and to combat possible health consequences, e.g.:

  • Spot-ons with an insecticidal effect are either dripped onto the skin with a pipette (e.g. on the neck or back) or used as a spray.
  • Shampoos: Special antiparasitic dog shampoos can also help and provide relief from severe itching.
  • Tablets usually take effect within a few hours and fight the parasites from the inside out.
  • Deworming: Hairworms are popular intermediate hosts of the tapeworm. Therefore, worming is often part of the treatment.

Unfortunately, for you, it's time to get to the vacuum cleaner and the mop – now it's time to win! Not only the area around your four-legged friend's favorite sleeping place, but also furniture and textiles with which he has come into contact should now be washed and meticulously cleaned.

Our tip: Since the bloodsuckers are often in different stages of life, you now have to hold out for a few weeks and repeat the procedure continuously - this is the only way to make sure that no eggs, no larva and no adult animals survive. After all, they even manage to survive 3–4 weeks without their host. So it's worth staying tuned – then you'll soon be able to snuggle up on the sofa with your companion again without any worries!

Preventing lice and hair lice infestation – 5 effective tips

You want to spare yourself the thrill that an infestation with the ectoparasites can bring? Then we have five tips for you:

  1. Every dog has its own brush: If you are a dog mom or dad of several four-legged friends, use brushes and grooming products for only one dog at a time. If one of your dogs has been infected with lice or hair lice, you can reduce the risk of infection somewhat.
  2. Regular hygiene: Vacuuming, mopping and washing are among the most effective measures against the little creepy crawlies. Covers from the dog bed or dog sofa and the dog blanket can therefore be put in the washing machine regularly. And the same applies here: Every dog has its own sleeping place. In addition, you should also clean dog toys, dog harnesses and collars regularly.
  3. Use a flea comb: With a special, narrow-toothed flea comb, you can regularly check during your grooming sessions whether nits or even adult animals can be found in your pet's hair. The teeth are so close together that even the tiny nits get caught in the comb.
  4. Spot-ons and other preparations: Get advice on whether a spot-on or other means of prevention are suitable for your dog.
  5. Avoid contact: Ideally, the dog owners of affected animals themselves ensure that they do not come into contact with other dogs in the event of an acute infestation - this can prevent infection.

As a home remedy for lice and hair lice, many dog lovers rely on coconut oil, which contains, among other things, lauric acid, which is supposed to deter the parasites. For dogs with allergies, coconut oil should first be tested carefully. However, if you want to be on the safe side, you should talk to your veterinarian about the most effective and tolerable means of prevention against lice, hair lice and other parasites.

Frequently asked questions about lice and hair lice in dogs

How do dogs get lice or hair lice?

Your dog can get fleas, lice or hair lice if it comes into contact with infested animals, e.g. via birds or their nests, fox burrows or conspecifics.

Are lice and hair lice in dogs transmissible to humans?

Unlike fleas, there is no risk of infection: lice are host-specific, so they can only infect other dogs – so your cat has nothing to worry about either!

Do human lice spread to dogs?

No, human lice are also host-specific. If, for example, your children bring home head lice from kindergarten, your furry friend has nothing to fear.

How long do lice and hair lice live?

The animals live exclusively on their host. Their lifespan is up to 6 weeks.

  • The females lay about 30–60 eggs at the hairline and stick them there.
  • After 1–2 weeks, the larvae hatch. Although these are smaller, they look similar to adults.
  • The larvae molt three times before they are fully grown.
  • After 3 to 6 weeks, their lives are already over.

Conclusion: Lice are fortunately quite rare lodgers in your pet's dog fur. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that your pet will struggle with it one day. If this happens, don't worry! Your veterinarian can prescribe effective medication for your pet. With a little perseverance when cleaning, you will quickly have the problem under control!

Feel free to tell us about your experiences: What do you do against parasites of this species or how did your furry friend get rid of them quickly?

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