Lice in Cats and Dogs

Lice are small, flattened wingless insects which parasitise the haircoat of animals. Each species of louse is host specific, that is each species of animal has it’s own type of louse which does not live on any other species. The entire life cycle of two to three weeks is spent on the host and they only survive a few days off the host. Spread is by contact with an infested animal, or contaminated brushes, combs or bedding, etc.

There are two types of lice, sucking lice which suck blood from the host, and biting lice which feed on skin debris and hair. In dogs there are sucking and biting lice, but only biting lice in cats.

Sign of Disease

Signs of infestation are variable. Some animals can have little or no signs of disease but most do. Intense itching, damage to the skin and hair loss occur, along with an unpleasant odour and a dry seborrhoea. Young, old or weak animals can suffer anaemia with heavy infestations. Finding lice or nits in the hair coat confirm the diagnosis.

Underlying Factors

Pediculosis or lice infestation is a disease of poor sanitation and overcrowding. Coats of affected animals are often matted and dirty. Young, old and sick animals are more prone to become infested.

New Puppies

Puppies purchased from ‘Puppy Farms’ and commercial breeders are often infested with lice and or other skin parasites including fleas, cheylietella, scabies and earmites. Although this should not be the case, get your puppy from reputable a source only and buy it subject to veterinary examination.


1.   ‘Frontline’ is a spot-on or spray treatment which is effective and licensed for treatment of lice in dogs and cats. It is a prescription-only product. All in-contact animals should also be treated.

2.  Alternatively treat all infested animals with a safe and effective insecticide.

3.  Clip off thick hair mats and shampoo with a normal shampoo.

4.  Clean all grooming equipment thoroughly, and clean or dispose of bedding.

5.  Improve general hygiene.

6.  Attend to any underlying diseases.

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