Lice in dogs and cats (dog lice and cat lice)

There are two species of lice that live on dogs, but only one that lives on cats.

  • Dog fur loop
  • Dog lice
  • Cat lice

Dogs and cats get fleas much more often than lice. When they do get lice, they are usually individuals with weakened immune systems - such as old or sick dogs and cats.

If a pet has very poor and unhygienic living conditions, this can also lead to lice infestation. This also applies to feral dogs and cats. If your dog or cat has lice, you should have it examined by a veterinarian to find the underlying cause of the lice.


Treating lice in dogs and cats

If your dog or cat has lice, you should have it checked by a vet, as there may well be an underlying cause for the presence of lice.

In severe cases, treatment with antibiotics and anti-itch medication may be necessary, but more often than not, treatment with a flea repellent is enough to knock down the existing lice infestation. Just make sure that the flea control product you choose is also effective against lice.

Because dogs and cats have a much bigger problem with fleas than lice, grooming product manufacturers focus much more on fleas than lice.

Although there are now a number of flea products that also promise protection against lice, Frontline® has been proven to be the best product against lice. All Frontline® products protect against lice, fleas and ticks.


Lice repellent for dogs

We recommend Frontline Combo® for lice control on dogs (note that there are different products for dogs of different sizes): 

We recommend these products to treat and prevent lice in dogs


Lice repellent for cats

We recommend Frontline Combo® for lice control in cats (note that one pack contains 6 pipettes, while the other only contains 3): 

We recommend these products to treat and prevent lice in cats 


Lice repellent for puppies and kittens

Frontline Vet Spray® can be used for both adult cats and dogs, and is also the preferred choice for kittens and puppies, which can be treated from as early as 2 days old (they can only be treated with the other products from 8 weeks old):

We recommend Frontline Vet Spray® for puppies and kittens


About the three lice species

Until now, lice have been divided into two groups:

  • The blood-sucking lice (Anoplura)
  • The praying loop (Mallophaga)

In recent years, some researchers have suggested that lice be divided in a different way, with a total of four subgroups (Anoplura, Rhynchophthirina, Ischnocera and Amblycera) - but we won't go into these in this article.

Dogs can be infested by two lice species, but cats can only be infested by one. In the following, we will go through the individual lice species.

Dog fur loop

Dog fur loop (Trichodectes canis) is a biting lice species found on dogs and wild dogs around the world. The louse is an intermediate host for the tapeworm species Dipylidium caninum. Dog fur lice only cause severe skin irritation in heavy infestations. They do not usually occur in kennel-bred dogs or family dogs unless their living conditions are very poor.

Dog fur lice are biting lice that live on dogs


Dog lice

Dog lice (Linognathus setosus) is a blood-sucking lice species that is occasionally found on dogs and wild dogs. It is most common in long-haired dog breeds. Like dog fur lice, dog lice only cause severe skin irritation in heavy infestations. Similarly, they only occur on kennel-bred dogs and family dogs if their living conditions are poor.

Dog lice are blood-sucking lice that live mainly on long-haired dogs


Cat fur lice

Cat fur lice (Felicola subrostratus) is also simply called cat lice and is a biting lice species that lives exclusively on cats. The lice often appear in large numbers on old or sick cats. They are also found on some feral cats. When cats are infested with cat fur lice, the presence of lice is not always detected as the cat may not show symptoms.

Cat lice are biting lice that only attach themselves to cats


How do you detect lice?

The most common sign of lice in dogs and cats is sudden itching. In addition, skin ulcers can occur as a result of severe itching. There may also be dandruff in the fur and some animals sweat more, which can make the fur greasy.

Most cats have few or no symptoms, but with heavy lice infestations, the itching can be severe and may cause skin ulcers.

This also applies to dogs, but while cats have only one species of lice, dogs have two: dog pee loop and dog lice. The dog fur louse is more common than the dog louse. The two species are generally indistinguishable to the naked eye, but dog lice grow up to 2.5 mm long and are therefore larger than dog fur lice, which only grow up to 1.7 mm long. Both species also have nymphs, which are precursors to the adult lice


Can lice be transmitted to humans?

Lice that live on pets cannot infect humans. Conversely, human lice cannot infect pets either. This is because lice are species-specific - meaning that each lice species only lives on one species of animal.

Therefore, dog lice cannot infect cats, just as cat lice cannot infect dogs.