The thought of lice chewing on your dog contains a high ick factor. Well fed and cared-for dogs seldom experience lice, but if your dog does end up with these parasites it's not because you're a bad pup parent. Your dog picked up lice from exposure to another dog.
Canines are vulnerable to two types of lice. The bloodsucking louse is Linognathus setosu, while the biting or chewing louse is Trichodectes canis. If you look at the louse under a microscope, you'll see a creature with a wide head and large jaws. Because the lice have strong claws, they can adhere to the hair shaft in the dog's coat and are tough to dislodge. Lice are species-specific, so your dog's lice won't chew on you.
A lousy dog—that's a dog with lice, not a bad character—scratches and chews at himself incessantly. He'll lick his skin for itch relief. His coat may have bald patches or lesions. These signs are similar to those of other skin problems, such as flea allergies. If he has chewing lice, you should be able to see them. These brown or black pests gather around the ears, anal area, neck and shoulders. Also look for the nits, or lice eggs, which look like canine dandruff. If you don't feel like nit-picking, there are many remedies to get rid of these creatures.
While many flea and tick monthly products also get rid of lice, they don't get rid of the eggs. For that, give your dog a bath using a flea-and-tick shampoo. You must treat other dogs in your household, even if they show no signs of infestation. Wash and disinfect the dogs' bedding, or throw it out and buy new dog beds. Clean sleeping areas and other places where the dog spends time with bleach and vinegar to kill stray lice.
Your dog probably picked up lice from another dog at one of his favorite places: the dog park, doggie daycare, obedience school or any other area where lots of dogs congregate. Rather than restrict his social life, keep him on a topical or oral monthly flea preventative. Ask your vet whether you need to keep him on this medication year-round to avoid lice.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.