Q:

Can dogs and cats get head lice?

A:

Dogs and cats cannot catch human head lice. Lice are species-specific; therefore, there is a specific species of lice for specific species of animals. Conversely humans cannot catch the species of lice that can live on dogs or cats.

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Human head lice is very contagious and is spread through close contact, sharing of hats, hair brushes and other personal items and through bed linens and towels. Head lice are not an indication of poor hygiene and can affect people of all ages. Children are at a higher risk because they spend time in group settings, such as in schools and on team sports. Additionally children have close physical contact and share personal items. Contact a doctor for recommendations of treatment options. Treatments may include medicated shampoos available over the counter or by prescription, or a prescribed oral medication for resistant lice.

While human head lice are contagious and are not caused by poor hygiene, lice are not common in healthy dogs and cats. Animals that are at the highest risk are those that have poor nutrition and poor overall health and that are very young or very old in age. If lice are suspected, a veterinarian should be consulted to provide treatment for the animal. Treatment options may include medicated shampoos or sprays.

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