Can Dogs Get Lice from People?

Can your furry friend pick up lice from people? Here's what experts have to say about dogs and lice—and how to protect your pup.

Taking care of your child means keeping them healthy, happy, safe, and clean. The same goes for your fur baby or dog, too. So when you get a notice from school about a lice outbreak, it makes sense that you might panic for your family. Especially since there are plenty of unexpected ways you can get head lice. But do you have to worry about keeping lice from your dog, as well?

Can dogs get lice from people?

Thankfully, lice are species-specific, according to Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH, and founder of Animal Acupuncture. This means that dogs can’t get lice from people and vice versa. Whether they can get hiccups or see color, however, is another story.

So don’t panic about protecting your pup from people with lice. Mark D. Freeman, DVM, an Assistant Professor at VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine, notes that lice can transmit easily from dog to dog. That’s one of the reasons why you need to remember how often you should wash your dog.

How common is it for dogs to have lice?

If a dog with lice doesn’t receive treatment, the infestation will develop quickly and significantly. There are two types of lice found in dogs, ones that chew and ones that suck. “Either of these parasites can result in an infestation of the dog, and will result in significant itching, scratching, a dry, dull hair coat, hair loss, and, in the case of sucking lice, anemia,” Dr. Freeman says. But Dr. Barrack says lice aren’t common in dogs that are well cared for because monthly flea and tick preventatives also combat louse infestation. Dr. Freeman agrees and notes that fleas are a more prevalent issue. That’s why there area few easy home remedies for fleas.

How can you treat a dog with lice?

Although there are some oral medications available, the majority of topical flea and tick preventatives for dogs will also kill lice, according to Dr. Freeman. Several shampoos, sprays, and powders, like this one, are also effective. You might have to repeat the treatment a few times to get rid of the nits or, you may need to shave dogs with thick coats–these pet hair removers really work if you’re looking to remove hair from surfaces. Always consult with your vet for the best course of action. And thoroughly clean all bedding and toys. Toss any items you can’t clean to prevent reinfestation, Dr. Freeman says. Now that you know all about dogs and lice, read up on the other things your dog wishes you knew.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.