Updated on August 20, 2020
In my time as a technician I was able to learn many things by answering questions from my many clients. One of the questions I received was “Can dogs get head lice?” This particular client was unique in that their family dog was a shih tzu that did not have fur, but rather hair. So…can they?
Can Dogs Get Lice?
Many families today have one or more dogs in their home that are an integral part of the family. Often children and other family members share the responsibility of caring for these loyal pets, so it would be natural to be concerned with can dogs get head lice from an infested family member or not. You may or may not be surprised to learn that, no, dogs cannot get head lice from a human. While dogs do get dog lice, which is specific to their species, they cannot get the human type of head lice from the family they live with. Human head lice need the specific environment unique to the human head to survive. They need the constant 98.6 degree temperature of a human host and the blood from the human head to survive. Since the normal body temperature for dogs is 101-102.5 degrees, dogs do not provide a hospitable enough environment to allow lice to survive.
Can Dogs Get Lice From Humans?
When considering if you can get your dog’s lice strain, the same principle applies. Can dogs get head lice? Yes, dogs can get lice, but the type of lice that infest dogs need the specific environment that your pet’s body provides to be able to survive. So no, you will not get dog lice from your furry family friend. But what if a live louse falls off of your family member that does have lice and onto your dog? Can a dog carry lice from one person to another much the same way that a sofa, theater seat, rug, hair brush or a piece of clothing would? Yes, while incredibly rare, it is possible that dogs can provide a short term landing spot for live bugs. However, they can only survive there for about 24 hours before they die. So if someone picks up, pets, or cuddles the family dog and a live louse has just arrived there, that bug can then climb out and onto a person and up to his or her hair. Rest assured, however, that by far, the most common way lice spreads is by direct contact of one person’s head with another person’s head who has a lice infestation. Head lice do not like to leave the comfort of a human head and the food supply it provides (blood from the human scalp) so the likelihood of this is slim.
Can Cats Get Lice?
There is a form of cat lice that can infest a feline. However, the same principles apply with cat lice as they do for dog lice. The type of lice that your house cat can get is not interested in moving out and onto a human head so there is no need to quarantine your cat away from your infested family member.
Can Cats Get Lice From Humans?
The body temperature of cats is similar to that of dogs. Human head lice do not like living off of the human head. In most cases, they will not venture away from the warm, cozy home of one person for another, much less onto an environment that is not suitable for sustaining its life. Off the human head, lice can only survive for 24 hours before starving to death and dying. So, if a louse happens to climb, fall, or is otherwise transported off the human head and onto the household cat or cats, the louse will die within a day. During that time, they will not be able to feed or reproduce and, therefore, will not infest your cat.
A lice infestation can be worrisome and can cause stress from families dealing with an ongoing infestation or for head lice newbies. Family pets can, and do, provide much needed comfort to their human family members, relieving stress, so there is no need to isolate your furry companion away from your family during this time. Bottom line, if someone in your family, or any visitors you recently had, have head lice, you do not have to worry about ridding your cat, dog, mouse, ferret, snake, gerbil…you get the idea, of human head lice. Even in the extremely rare case of a live bug crawling or falling off of an infested person’s head onto that animal, within a day, any lice that made that journey onto them will be dead. This is good news! We are as relieved as you are to know that you will only need to concern yourself with getting all of the bugs and nits out of the hair of humans in your family. Give LiceDoctors a call at 800-224-2537 and an experienced lice professional will be at your home today to provide lice treatment that is safe for everyone, and will not harm your furry family members. Your technician will make sure that the lice are gone and will get you back to your every day life--lice and nit free.