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Treatments for Dog Lice

Updated July 20, 2017

Dog lice are unwelcome predatory insects: flat, brown, oily-looking pests with an insatiable drive to feed on your pet's blood or flesh. Though dog lice seldom if ever attack humans, they create problems for the dog. Lice can cause a dog to lose hair from scratching, develop anaemia from blood loss, and even contract diseases the pest has carried and transmitted. Prompt treatment is vital. Always begin your treatment routine by speaking with your veterinarian or licensed animal professional.

Risk Factors

Dog lice typically attack unhealthy, stressed or otherwise weakened canines. Dogs are at risk if they are sick, malnourished, or are not fed and watered properly. Another risk factor is when dogs play with other infected canines, which transmit the lice or their larvae directly to the pet. Additionally, some groomers don't clean instruments properly, potentially spreading the lice from dog to dog.

Natural Remedies

It is not well-established that natural remedies will work as quickly or effectively as insecticide-based treatments; however, their benefit is that they are likely less harsh on the dog's skin and coat and potentially the environment. The first natural treatment to try is simple elbow grease. Using an oily medium like baby oil, attempt to comb the nits and eggs out of your dog's hair. Do this outside with your pet standing on some light-coloured paper so you can see the pests and sweep them up easily. Storing cedar in and around your pet's bedding may help repel the insects. Try a "neem" shampoo or shampoo with aloe and rosemary may soothe the dog's irritated skin. Use fresh lemon juice on the dog's skin and coat to help kill lice eggs. Vacuuming the carpet several times may help draw the stragglers up.

Insecticides and Chemically-based Treatments

Many owners will likely find that natural remedies are not enough to tame their lice infestation. In these cases, harsher chemicals will be needed. According to Pet Education online, some of the best treatments for killing dog lice are insecticidal shampoos with pyrethrin and pyrethrin-based powders. They also recommend chemical insecticides such as fipronil (brand name "Frontline") and selamectin (brand name "Revolution"). Any dog lice remedy will probably need to be repeated since the eggs that remain will hatch within a week or two of the first treatment.

Prevention

Both natural and chemical-based methods can be used for prevention of dog lice after it has been successfully treated. Regular bathing and grooming help keep a dog's coat clean and inhospitable to the dirt-loving dog lice. An addition of several drops of tea tree oil to dog shampoo can be effective, with the added benefit of pleasant smell. Including an appropriate amount of vitamin D with your pet's normal food ration can help repel the insects. Adding garlic or lemon juice to your dog's food may help repel lice and other biting insects.

References

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About the Author

Stefanie Reubell is a longtime editor, writer, and teacher. Her writing and editing expertise includes special interests in education, horticulture, zoology, biology, the culinary arts, and music. She earned Bachelor's degrees in English and education and a Master's degree in education.