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Is Lice Shampoo Safe For Dogs?

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Tim Rhodes

Is lice shampoo safe for dogs?

Have you noticed your dog itching ferociously lately?

You can also see patches of bare skin, many coming complete with small scabs.

Well, you might be facing a lice problem at hand.

But not to worry about every problem has a solution.

Lice infestation on your dog can be treated relatively quickly using topical treatments such as shampoos, sprays, and powders effective in killing lice.

For a long time now, dog owners have been recommended to use lice shampoo in lice infestation cases because of how safe they are.

Table of Contents

Is Lice Shampoo Safe For Dogs?

In this article, we will discuss lice, the symptoms of lice infestation, how to get rid of lice, is lice shampoo safe for dogs, treatment, and duration, how to avoid retreatment of lice and various preventive measures.

What is dog lice?

Dog lice are small insects, do not have wings, have six legs, and are flat.

They inhabit mammals and stay in their fur and even bird feathers.

Lice are species-specific because their claws designed to a specific size of the host’s hair or feathers.

They are parasitic and depend on the host’s blood, sebaceous secretions, and skin debris for survival.

Dog lice are categorized into two; the chewing lice and the sucking lice.

Let’s talk about these two kinds of lice;

Chewing Lice

Their survival depends on feeding off skin debris and surface secretions.

A flat blunt head identifies chewing lice.

The two species that are known to attack dogs are Trichodectes canis and Heterodoxus spiniger.

Trichodectes canis is found everywhere globally and can stay on a host’s body for up to 30 days.

Heterodoxus spiniger are rarely found in North America but are mostly located in tropical areas.

H.Spiniger is found in a breed of dogs like the red fox, coyote, and grey wolf.

Sucking Lice

These are located in areas such as Africa, Northern, and Southern America, India, and Asia ( basically the tropical and subtropical regions )

They survive on the host’s body by sucking their blood; that’s why they are called sucking lice.

Symptoms of Lice Infestation

How do you know that your dog has lice?

If you pat your dog’s hair and look closely at the hair shaft, you might be able to see the lice.

It’s possible to identify lice with your naked eyes for their size ranges at 2 to 4 mm and are medium brown.

Using a flea comb, examine your dog’s hair.

A chewing louse will be seen moving while a sucking jerk is stuck on your dog’s skin.

Sometimes people end up mistaking lice and nits with dandruff on their dogs.

To be sure of what you are dealing with, shake, or rub your dog’s hair.

If they fall, then that’s dandruff, but in case they get stuck, you might be having a lice situation.

Other signs that your dog might be having a lice infestation include:

  • Itchiness
  • Lethargy, weight loss, low development in severely infested pups
  • Agitation
  • Skin rash and discomfort
  • Dry skin
  • Densely tangled clumps of far
  • Hair loss – around the neck, the upper side of the back, ears, rectum, and groin
  • Cases of anemia seen with an extreme infestation
  • Rubbing and biting at skin

How Do Dogs Get Infected with Lice?

Like we discussed earlier, lice are wingless.

Therefore their movement is limited.

They can’t jump, hop or fly but can crawl.

Direct contact with some infected animal or beddings and other items of a dog that has been infested will lead to lice transmission.

The life cycle of lice is in three stages:

  • Egg
  • Nymph
  • Adult

The female lice lay small white or yellow eggs on the floor of the hair shaft.

The eggs can’t fall off even during shampooing.

After one week, the eggs hatch, and tiny lice called nymphs are released.

One week after the nymphs are hatched, they turn into adults, and the cycle goes on.

Adult lice die in a few days and fall off the host’s coat.

Getting Rid of Lice

The steps below can help you get rid of lice in your dog:

  • Ensure that your dog is washed regularly
  • Use the dog lice shampoo on the dog’s body for around 10 minutes before washing it off
  • Check up at the vets
  • Use insecticidal products; they contain permethrin, phosmet, fipronil, fenthion, and selamectin
  • Use a dog’s comb to comb the hair
  • Thoroughly clean your dog’s bedding
  • Give your dog some vitamins
  • Remove some of the eggs that are attached to the hair follicles of your dog

If you follow the above steps, I’m sure everything will turn out well.

You should ensure to treat all the dogs in the house, even if only one has lice!

Dog Lice Shampoo

Let’s talk about dog lice shampoo!

The use of dog lice shampoo and flea lice shampoo is one of the many effective ways to destroy lice.

It may not be the best way to deal with lice due to its ineffectiveness in destroying the eggs.

If well applied, a dog shampoo will kill all the adults and nymphs found on your dog’s body.

However, you should be aware that this method will not apply in killing the lice located on your dog’s bedding or in the surrounding environment either.

For us to consider this method useful, daily showers with shampoo products for pet lice should be a routine for about six weeks.

This is why giving your dog vitamins is recommended for its skincare because the daily washing will remove natural oils from your dog’s skin.

Different lice shampoos have other active ingredients that give them unique properties, enabling them to work best in different situations.

Active Ingredient Comparison For Dog Lice Shampoo

  • Sulfurated lime

It’s usually applied as a shampoo or dip after veterinarians discovered that it can be used to drive away pets from these threats.

One should take precautions while using it since it can irritate the dog’s eye, it can be quite uncomfortable due to its smell, and also when used on light-colored dogs it leaves stains.

  • Pyrethrins

They occur naturally and are obtained from chrysanthemum flowers.

Their mechanism of action involves overstimulating the insect’s nervous system causing paralysis and lastly death.

Pyrethrins are safe for dogs if used in the right dosage recommended by the vet.

They only become unreliable in cases where one owns a cat because it can cause serious health effects.

  • Pyrethroids

It can be said it’s the synthetic form of pyrethrins and is more effective.

Pyrethroids’ effectiveness is enhanced when it’s combined with substances like piperonyl butoxide.

Just like pyrethrins they are considered safe in the right dosage but are dangerous to a cat’s health.

  • S-methoprene

It works by regulating an insect’s growth.

S-methoprene is not suicidal, it first disrupts their time for development after which the insects are prevented from completing their life cycle.

It also has a wide spectrum of action due to its capability of destroying lice, fleas, and other insects.

When administered in high doses it becomes poisonous therefore it causes dogs to vomit.

Examples of Dog Lice Shampoos in The Market

There are a variety of dog shampoos in the market, we are going to discuss a few samples.

  • Vet Basics Lime Sulfur Dip

It’s used in treating lice, ringworm, and manage due to its antiparasitic and antimicrobial properties.

Vet basics lime sulfur is concentrated and 4 ounces of the shampoo has to be mixed with a gallon of water before use.

The pros of using this shampoo are the fact that it can be used on both cats and breeds of dogs that react to ivermectin.

Its biggest problem is the odor that can last for a long time.

This shampoo is effective in killing lice, ticks, or fleas on your dog.

It has a sensitive skin formula that contains lanolin, oatmeal, aloe, and coconut extract.

Its mechanism of action involves the prevention of growth in fleas and lice for up to 28 days.

Just like vet basics lime sulfur, it’s suitable for other pets like cats.

Its content includes pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide that acts as a synergist.

The good thing about Adams plus flea and tick shampoo is the nice smell and its positive effect on the skin( removes dandruff, dirt, and scaly skin ).

Its downside involves complaints from people that it doesn’t work effectively on fleas.

However, it’s much easier to destroy lice than fleas, so this shampoo might prove helpful.

  • Zodiac Oatmeal Flea and Tick Dog Shampoo

This shampoo will kill any lice available on your dog’s body.

It also kills fleas and lice.

The presence of lanolin, oatmeal, aloe, and coconut extract lives your dog’s coat shiny, soft, and manageable.

Zodiac oatmeal flea and tick dog shampoo are similar to the Adams plus as it contains pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide which acts as a synergist.

This shampoo can be used like that or mixed with water in a 2:1 ratio.

Among the many advantages of the zodiac, oatmeal shampoo is its simplicity while using, the sweet scent, and its nice effect on your dog’s skin.

Unfortunately, complaints have been raised about its ineffectiveness to destroy fleas and its high price.

Other Medications Used in Killing Lice

The medications we are going to discuss below don’t necessarily come in the form of dog lice shampoo.

Is lice shampoo safe for dogs?

You may have to acquire them through a prescription from a vet or as over the counter meds.

  • Ivermectin

This is a powerful antiparasitic drug and is commonly known as ivomec.

It’s advantageous in killing ticks, lice, fleas, heartworms, and even ear mites.

Despite being very useful, it also has disadvantages like causing death and severe health problems to dogs’ specific breeds.

If you own these breeds; German Shepherd, Australian shepherds, collies, old English sheepdogs, among others, you have to avoid using ivermectin.

  • Fipronil

Fipronil was discovered in the late 80s and is a primary ingredient in Frontline Plus topical flea treatment.

It’s used in killing ticks, fleas, and lice, but its mechanism of action involves the disruption of the GABA pathway in insects.

The advantage of fipronil is that it has a wide safety margin and is applied topically, spreading via the oil on your dog’s skin, killing insects for around 30 days after the initial treatment.

  • Selamectin

Some countries like the US don’t allow drugs containing selamectin to be sold without a health practitioner prescription.

Unlike ivermectin, selamectin is relatively safer for breeds that don’t use it.

It’s also quite useful in killing lice and is found in some topical flea treatments.

Dog Lice Treatment Duration

To effectively and permanently get rid of lice on your dog, you have to use insecticides routinely.

You should put in mind that if you shower the dog or apply insecticide once, you will destroy the adults and nymphs, but in 2 weeks, you will have a whole new infestation of lice.

Just as we stated earlier, nothing can destroy the eggs, mainly because most insecticides don’t last on a dog’s coat or fur for long, so there’s the little duration of action.

Dog lice grow fast since a single louse can lay up to 100 eggs, and in 2-3 weeks, the nits develop into adult lice.

This brings us to the various ways of treating lice and for how long.

Insecticidal Shampoos

Effective flea shampoos contain pyrethrins and organophosphates, enabling them to work very well.

They should be used for 4-6 weeks.

Each product has a label indicating how long the drug should be left on the coat.

Most drugs always indicate that they should be left for 5-10 minutes.

Ensure to follow the instructions for effective treatment.

Advantage Multi Topical

This drug is applied when lice infestation is first identified, then concurrently after every two weeks, three treatments.

Usually, the label on advantage drugs states that the medication should be applied after four weeks.

However, the problem is that four weeks is enough time for the medicine to wear off and not act effectively.

That’s why vets recommend the drug to be reapplied after two weeks, to cub any lice as soon as they emerge instantly.


It’s applied every two weeks for three treatments.

Flea Combs

Flea combs are a good idea in removing either dead or live lice.

After using a flea comb, ensure you immerse it in a container that has a flea shampoo and water or any insecticide.

Leave it in the solution for around 10 minutes or a little bit longer to be safe.

Lime Sulfur Dips

If you don’t want to opt for an insecticide, there are other options like lime sulfur dips.

They have been considered among the safest methods and are even used on kittens to treat ringworms.

Lime sulfur dips are very useful and should be administered weekly for 4-6 weeks.

Coat Shaving

This enables one to reach the innermost layer of the dog’s coat.

Coat shaving is essential because it helps accomplish the actual medication, especially if we are to reach the deepest layers where nits and lice are attached.

This should apply to breeds of furry dogs or with mated or lumpy fur.

How To Get Rid of These Parasites with Home Remedies

Home remedies are a good idea but are not recommended in the following cases:

  • If your dog is in the puppy stages or is old
  • In cases where there are underlying diseases
  • In situations where there are plenty of lice and wounds caused by severe itching
  • Any dog that is on any medication

For the above cases, it’s advisable to visit a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

The following are examples of home remedies:


One of the most suitable ways of deworming dogs involves using garlic.

Add a full garlic clove for large dogs and half a clove of garlic for puppies.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Use five drops of the oil with shampoo.

Tea tree essential oil has both antiparasitic, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties.

Use this mixture for a week.

Lavender Essential Oil

Its properties are antiseptic.

Take caution and do not apply to open wounds.

Use a few drops like 3-5 and place on cotton, then apply to the stricken zones.


Artemisia has insecticidal properties.

Using a solution of artemisia tincture, dampen a ball of cotton wool and apply it to your dog.

Citronella Infusion Massages

Protects the dog by acting as a good repellant

In half a pint of boiled water, add a handful of fresh citronella

Once the mixture has cooled, filter and place it on a cotton pad.

Using the moistened cotton pad, place on the dog’s lice, and pay attention to the areas that have been affected.

How to Avoid Lice Retreatment

When not taken care of properly, the dog can be reinfested with lice.

How do we prevent this from happening?

  • Clean every place that your dog has been staying in
  • Vacuum every single area, dogs hair are found anywhere, and they might contain nits or lice on them
  • Anything in direct contact with your dog, rugs, brushes, collars, beddings, etc., must be cleaned
  • Ensure to dispose of the vacuum bag safely after vacuuming the house
  • Use a zip-lock plastic bag to contain the nits and nymphs for 4-6 weeks and keep them sealed till they die

Environmental Lice Prevention

How do we prevent lice from affecting our pets?

  • Lice are usually found in dirty places, especially where mice are available, so one should ensure they keep and maintain their surroundings clean.
  • Quarantine your infected dog in cases where you have more than one dog or other pets.
  • For patients where you hire a groomer to groom your dog, ensure they always disinfect their tools, and to be safe, choose a groomer based on high ratings and reviews.
  • Clean your house regularly.
  • Try and protect your dog from unwanted contact, especially from dogs that are infected.
  • Thoroughly clean all items that are associated with the dog.

Quarantine Your Dog

Please keep your dog away from situations where they’ll have contact with other dogs or pets.

You could wait until at least four weeks of treatment have passed for them to play with other dogs.

This does not mean that you should completely contain them.

You could take them out for walks in the park but not doggy care facilities.

The insecticide may have destroyed the lice in your pet but not the nits, which could hatch and spread to other dogs.

Why Is It Worthwhile to Prevent Lice Infections

Early treatments and costs help prevent advanced health problems and extra charges in the future.

There are a lot of benefits that come if we protect our dogs from these parasites.

Your dog can infect your other pets in the house and your home.

Keeping your home and family safe from lice is essential.

If one of your pets gets infected, it will cause other pets in the house to get an infection.

Humans are also exposed to diseases that are caused by lice infestation in pets.

Most lice or tick-borne illnesses don’t have vaccines.

That’s why it’s crucial to prevent their infestation.

It’s imperative to prevent lice from infesting your house and pets to avoid dog illnesses.

Final Thoughts

Lice can transmit additional parasites such as tapeworms, which causes its problems.

To avoid such issues, use tick or flea preventatives to treat your pets every month.

Maintain cleanliness in and around your home, and be very cautious around areas with a lot of pets!

Dog lice can’t be passed to humans, just as head lice can’t be transferred to dogs.

The fastest way to get rid of lice is daily shampooing.

Never use dog flea shampoo on cats because they contain pyrethrins that can be dangerous to cats.

You could also ask your vet if they could prescribe chewable for your dog since they effectively prevent lice, fleas, tapeworms, and even destroy eggs and larvae.

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