Symptoms of Dog Lice and Effective Ways to Get Rid of Them

Lice, also known as canine chewing louse, are terribly unpleasant for your dog. Lice can be very irritating, especially in heavy infestations, but the good thing is that canine chewing louse are not transferable to humans. However, when it comes to your dog, these parasites tend to cause health problems and discomfort if left untreated. Thankfully there are several natural remedies that you can offer to your pet to get rid of this annoying and itchy problem.

What Are Lice?

Scientifically known as Trichodectes canis, lice are also referred to as chewing lice or canine chewing louse. Unlike other creatures in the animal kingdom, males are usually smaller than females. Females possess a special organ that looks like a couple of bowed appendages on either side of her genitals. This organ helps stick the eggs to the host’s fur as well as to grasp and hang on to its fur. Interestingly, the female can lay up to 100 eggs, or nits, at a time, and will proceed to glue each one onto its own strand of hair. There are two types of lice that commonly affect dogs. The first type survives by scraping off and eating flakes of their host’s skin. The second type feeds on the dog’s blood. Both types of lice can be found on domesticated and wild canines around the world. Dogs that receive proper and regular grooming have a smaller chance of encountering lice, whereas dogs that are undernourished and not taken care of are more likely to suffer from this problem.

What Are the Symptoms of Lice?

Your dog will show signs it is suffering from a problem. When it comes to lice, your dog will exhibit several symptoms you will easily catch and understand. As a responsible pet owner, you have to take the necessary steps as soon as you find that your dog has a problem with lice.

1. Scratching & Licking

Although dogs tend to scratch and lick themselves multiple times a day, you will be able to tell when it gets out of control. One way to tell that your dog has a problem is when you find it excessively scratching and licking itself. The reason for this is that lice will bite its skin, causing extreme itchiness and discomfort. Additionally, your dog will lick itself more often than usual. This is because its saliva offers temporary relief from the itchiness. Similar to you dousing cold water on a mosquito bitten area of your skin, dogs will lick themselves when they feel bothered and itchy.

2. Patchy Fur

Because of the excessive scratching, your dog may lose some fur in certain areas. These unsightly bald patches are a very clear indication that something is wrong. When your pet feels a constant itch, it tries to relieve itself by scratching at the area without comprehending it will cause a bald patch, which could lead to an open wound and possible infection.

3. Bumpy Skin

When you run your fingers over your dog’s body, you may notice small bumps on its skin. This is a sign your dog is being tortured by the bloodsucking type of lice. These bumps come about from the nasty bites the lice inflict upon your pet.

4. Nits

Run a fine-toothed comb through your dog’s fur and you will probably notice lice and nits falling off. Nits, or eggs, look like tiny white flakes, and are usually mistaken for flakes of dead skin. If you see this, investigate a little further and take a peek into your dog’s ears, around its collar and even around the rectum. You will notice visible groups of lice concentrated around these areas.

How to Get Rid of Lice

If you suspect your dog has lice, the first thing you should do is bring it to the vet. Although it is relatively easy to determine if your pet has a lice problem, there is absolutely no harm going the extra mile and getting a professional’s opinion. Once you have done that, here are some things you can do at home.

1. Bathe Your Dog

The first step to treating a dog with lice is to bathe it. Take it outside and bathe it with a shampoo that contains D-limonene. This is a nontoxic and dog-friendly insecticide. You can also ask your vet for other nontoxic options. Although this shampoo will kill the adult lice, it will not kill the eggs. These eggs will continue to hatch over the span of a couple of weeks, so you have to give your dog a wash and shampoo on a daily basis until they are all gone. You should also brush its fur with a nit comb to weed out as many eggs as you can, but the best course of action is to be patient and bathe it every day. Instead of using an insecticide-based shampoo, you can also opt for something more natural. Take one slice of lemon and add it to a pint of boiling water. Let it steep overnight, and the next morning bathe your dog with its regular shampoo. Once you are done, take the lemon water and sponge your dog with it. Repeat this daily. As for the eggs, massage mayonnaise into your dog’s fur and follow up with a thorough shampoo and wash.

2. Medication & Vitamins

Whether your dog should take medication or vitamins or not is something for your vet to decide. Because lice are a form of parasite, your dog may need the added energy to fight off the infection and stay healthy, especially if it has been living with it for longer than necessary. Medication and certain vitamins will help get rid of the parasites quicker and more efficiently, so ask your vet about them.

3. Clean the House

Although lice do not hop around like fleas, and prefer to stay put on their host, it is still a good idea for you to thoroughly clean your space. Start with your dog’s bedding, toys, leash, collar and grooming kit. Either buy a new grooming kit or soak it in vinegar or a bleach-based cleaner. Clean every room in the house and properly vacuum and dust every rug and carpet in the vicinity. Do not forget to spray the house with an anti-lice disinfectant when you are done.

4. Bathe Other Pets

If you have other pets in the house, ensure that you thoroughly bathe them too. Whether they show signs of having lice, it is always best to be safe than sorry in these circumstances. Give your pets a thorough wash and shampoo, and follow up with the aforementioned lemon rinse just to be sure.

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