Dog lice are not a common occurrence, especially in the United States, but it does and can occur. Most dogs who suffer from dog lice are those that do not live in a clean environment and are poorly nourished. Although, if a dog with lice comes near a healthy dog, then it is likely that transference can occur.
There are two types of canine lice. The first is the biting lice. They feed on skin flakes and the skin in general, causing bleeding and open sores. The second type is the sucking louse, which feeds on the blood and causes more irritation to the skin rather than actual damage.
Dog lice barely move at all and when they do move they do so very slowly. They are flat, gray and wingless. They do not jump from dog to dog, but are spread through dog to dog contact, such as at a doggie day care, dog park or another location where a dog may live. If a dog shares a crate or bed with another dog, they may pick up lice in those areas as well. Grooming tools are also another source.
If a dog is scratching more than normal, then chances are they should be checked for lice, although fleas may also cause this reaction. Dog lice are very small and look more like dirt than bugs. It is very easy for owners to disregard lice as simple dirt. You may also have to push the fur around to look for them. Many groomers have found lice in dogs after using a high-powered blower on a dog and they have blown out the lice while grooming.
Dogs that are groomed on a regular basis typically do not have lice issues. If a groomer does notice something unusual, they will generally notify you. Flea and tick preventative treatments such as Frontline and K9 Advantix are often used to prevent infestation of lice as well. There are also some natural preventive options, such as garlic. If your dog regularly visits a kennel, doggie day care or dog park, then it is often a good idea to use a stronger preventative method.
If your dog does have lice, then you will want to bathe your dog in a pyrethrin-based shampoo every seven days until the lice are gone. You will also want to contact your vet about beginning a preventative treatment. Before treating a puppy, be sure to contact your veterinarian before bathing in a pesticide treatment, especially toy puppies as they can have adverse effects to these treatments.
To prevent lice infestation, it's important to ensure that all lice eggs have been eliminated from bedding, hair and other areas where the dog may sleep. Wash the clothes that you were wearing when you groomed and bathed the dog as well as when you found the dog lice. Although dog lice will not spread to humans, it is possible for them to use your clothing as a means of spreading back to the dog or to another dog.