Parasites: Lice

Types of Canine lice: 

Dogs may be infested with a few species of lice; they may be either be sucking or biting lice.

  1. Anoplura (Sucking Lice): Linognathus setosus is the only specie of sucking lice infesting dogs. Linognathus setosus are usually 2–3 mm in length and have three pairs of legs; the third pair of legs is larger than the other two pairs. Linognathus setosus are sucking lice, and may cause rough a coat, matted hair and anaemia. This species of lice does not move freely over the body and they usually appear deep, nearer to the base of the hair.

  2. Mallophaga (Biting or Chewing Lice): Two species of Mallophagas; which infests dogs commonly are Trichodectes canis and Heterodoxus spiniger. Biting or chewing lice are usually seen slowly moving over the body’s surface. They usually occur on the head, neck and tail but generalized there is a heavy infestations. The lice are usually 2–4 mm in size and may also act as carriers for tapeworms and filarial worms.

Signs & Symptoms:

Generally, dog lice is characterized by pruritus (severe itching), greasy and matted hair, rubbing, scratching and irritation. Dogs appear to have rough coats and dry skin. These symptoms may also be a sign of anemia in puppies and aged dogs.

Alopecia (hair loss) is another sign associated with dog lice infestation. Note that crawling, irritation and biting may result in nervousness and fear in infested dogs.


Dog lice can be detected by the clinical signs and observation. Diagnosis can usually be completed by the naked eye. However, differentiating between the types of lice requires a parasitological observation, under a microscope in a laboratory.


Treatment of lice on dogs is simple and can easily be eliminated; as compared to other skin parasites and can be controlled by use of insecticides or drugs.

Shampooing and washing is the best mode of management.  Any Shampoo and remedy containing pyrethrins, permethrins, rotenone, diazinon etc. can be very effective such as Virbac Ecto-Soothe 3x Tick, Flea & Lice Shampoo.

Whole body sprays and dusting with pyrethrins is also another way to eliminate canine lice.

Ivermectin is another option to eliminate dog lice, but is not recommended, due to side effects. A simpler way to treat canine lice, i.e., would be to shampoo with pyrithrins.