Pet owners warned: Dog lice on the move
Cathy Adamson has worked in the pet grooming business 21 years and has rarely come across dog lice. Now she owns Four Paws Grooming & Boarding Kennel and said in the last three weeks she spotted at least a dozen South Lake Tahoe dogs with the tiny critters crawling through their fur.
“It’s really weird, I’ve never seen so many cases in so little time. I just want to get the word out that owners should get their dogs examined if they notice a lot of scratching,” Adamson said.
The key to avoiding complications, say specialists, is to get itchy dogs checked-out by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
“There are two signs to look out for,” said Sierra Veterinary Hospital co-owner Rick Brown. “The first one is lots of itching. The second one is the appearance of visible small specs on and in the coat.”
The specs are usually minuscule louse eggs and have a sticky film which allows them to cling to individual hair strands and not brush off. Owners should also look out for bald spots, scaling, crusting and scabbing, noted Dr. Stacy Baker at Kingsbury Veterinary Hospital.
“Sometimes people confuse lice with mites, that’s why it’s important to have a veterinarian diagnose the dog. Mites are super, super, itchy and are characterized by little bald spots around the (pets) head and ears. Lice appear like dirt on the end of the hair follicle, kind of waxy, and in my experience quite dark,” Baker said.
Unless they have extremely heavy coats, dogs usually respond well to insecticide treatment like shampoos and sprays.
“If they have really heavy fur, like retrievers for example, they might need to be shaved because the shampoo can’t reach deep enough into the coat. Dogs with lighter coats are usually cured with the insecticide after several treatments at two to three week intervals,” Brown said.
Both Brown and Baker stress the importance of treating dog lice immediately to avoid severe infestation, transmission to other dogs and other related health complications.
“If the host, the dog, gets sick or injured somehow and it’s metabolism goes up because it’s fighting an infection, the parasites will take advantage of that weakness and proliferate. Parasites are opportunistic, that’s why dogs should be treated immediately.”
The good news is that dog lice are usually species-specific, meaning humans, cats and other pets will not get them.
“Lice are very host specific. It’s a misconception that your kids could get lice from the dog or vice versa. Dog lice do not like humans and people lice do not like dogs,” Baker said.
After treatment, owners should wash bedding and clean in and around their dog’s favorite hang-outs in the home.
Although doctors suggest taking pets to veterinarians, Adamson offers free dog lice check-ups at 979 Tallac Ave.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, I know what to look for and I won’t shave dogs. I’ll just dip them until the lice go away.”
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