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Post by Eleanor on Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:44 pm

Lice are ectoparasites which live on the exterior (skin) of animals, feeding on either blood or skin, depending on the type, and are host-specific, so they will not infest other animal species or humans.  They are not as common as fleas and usually only occur when hygiene conditions are not kept to an adequate standard.

The two types of canine lice are:

Trichodectes canis, which is a ‘chewing’ louse and feeds on the skin.
Linognathus setosus, which is a ‘sucking’ louse and feeds on the blood.

The innate immune system cannot do much to fight off lice infestations. Skin barriers can provide some resistance, but lice are adapted to penetrate through the barriers to reach bodily fluids.

Symptoms of lice:

• Excessive scratching
• Bald patches
• Restlessness
• Irritability
• Sore or broken skin, from scratching
• Rough coat
• Lice visible on hairs
• In severe cases, anaemia

Lice are transmitted through direct contact from one dog to another, so a dog with a louse infestation should be kept away from other dogs until the lice are removed. Specific treatments can be administered to rid dogs of lice, mainly in the form of sprays, rub-on ointment, shampoos or powder.

Regular health checking and careful grooming, particularly in the autumn and winter, can help to spot early signs of lice and prevent infestations from developing. Carefully cleaning grooming supplies, furniture and bedding can also help to prevent the transmission of lice from a contaminated dog to an unaffected one.

Lice are not usually fatal to dogs, unless the dog is immunocompromised and has a severe infestation. However, they can cause stress and decreased milk production in lactating females. This can have a negative effect on puppies, as they may not receive enough milk.

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