Lice are not a particularly common parasite but they can be extremely irriating if your pet is infected with them and they can pass easily between animals. However, they are readily treated by several of the veterinary spot-on treatments
What are lice?
- Lice are insects, they have 6 legs and flat bodies, they are a whiteish colour and move very slowly, so can be difficult to spot
- There are 2 types of lice, sucking, which bite your pet and suck their blood, and biting, which just feed off the dead skin on the surface.
- The lice themselves are difficult to spot, but you may well see the eggs, which are commonly known as nits, clinging to your pet’s fur. ( Just like you see in children)
- The lice found on cats and dogs are species specific, so don’t worry, they cannot infect people.
These are lice as seen under a microscope.
How do I know if my pet has lice?
- Firstly, lice are not common in healthy cats and dogs. Animals are more likely to suffer from infestations if they are ill for another reason and their immune system is under stress.
- One of the first signs of a louse infection is a scurfy, dry coat which progresses to sore, red, itchy skin.
- Hair loss may also occur.
- Lice are most often found around the ears, neck, shoulders and bottom.
- It is possible for a heavily infected animal to become anaemic ( low levels of red blood cells) but this is uncommon and generally only seen in puppies.
How do I treat lice?
- Several of the veterinary spot-on treatments will kill lice, ask your vet for specific advice.
- The lice lifecycle ( from egg to adult) last 21 days, so often the treatment needs to be repeated in order to fully clear the infestation.
- Lice are very contagious and will pass easily between pets. If one animal in the household has them, you must treat them all.
- It is also a good idea to throw away your pets bedding to ensure that all the lice eggs are removed.
Please note this is an advice only website, if you have any specific concerns or queries about your pet, please contact your vet.