Can My Pet Catch Head Lice From My Kids (Or Vice Versa)?

Jack Russell Terrier scratching itself on sofa
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Dealing with head lice is something most school officials and some parents are familiar with. Is the family dog at risk if the kids have lice? Did the kids catch lice from the cat? A lice parasite infection is termed pediculosis, no matter what species of animal is affected by lice. Read on to find out more about lice; a class of ectoparasites that affect many animals, including humans.

The short answer to this question is no. 

Lice are species-specific, meaning that there is a different species of lice for each animal species that they depend on.

Human lice need human blood to survive, dog lice need dog blood, and so on. Therefore, if your child comes home from school with a diagnosis of head lice, your dog, cat, or other pets in the household are not at risk from catching the lice or hatching eggs. Conversely, while not as common in dogs and cats, the species of lice that live on dogs and cats are not able to live on humans.

While not an immediate threat to health, human head lice is very contagious and is not an indicator of poor personal hygiene. Lice are not as common in healthy dogs and cats as they are in humans. Poor nutrition, poor overall health, and very old or young dogs and cats are most at risk for lice infestation.

If your child has been diagnosed with lice, please see your health care provider for treatments and methods of egg (nit) removal from the hair, scalp, bedding and clothing.

If you suspect that your pet has lice or other ectoparasites, please see your vet for a definitive diagnosis.

Lice are much easier to treat than other parasites such as fleas, and your vet will be able to recommend the best medicated shampoo, spray,  or spot-on treatment for your pet to get rid of the lice.

More About Lice and Pets: Can My Family Become Infested with Lice From Our Pet?

Related Reading:
Glossary term: Pediculosis
Lice Infestation in Humans
From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
All About Head Lice
From HeadLice.org