Lice in Poodles: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention


While fleas and ticks are the parasites most often noted when it comes to dogs, there is another small bug that targets humans and dogs alike: lice. Although lice are usually not life-threatening, these tiny bugs are a nightmare for any dog owner. Luckily, an infestation is easily preventable, identifiable, and treatable. 

Lice infestations are rare and occur when poodles are ill-cared for and exposed to infected animals. Lice is easily prevented through proper hygiene and limiting exposure to affected animals. Symptoms of lice include biting and licking, anemia, and hair loss, and is most commonly treated with insecticides.


Lice are tricky to get rid of, so you will want to learn the ins and outs of how to properly eradicate them from both your poodle’s hair and your home. Read on to learn the symptoms, treatment options, and ways to prevent your poodles from ever contracting lice. 

How Do Poodles Contract Lice?

Typically, poodles will contract lice when they are ill-cared for and exposed to other infected animals or any areas where infected animals have been. The more dogs your poodle is around, the greater their likelihood of lice exposure. 

Here are some common places for lice exposure:

  • Kennels
  • Dog groomers (tools, towels, cages, etc.)
  • Dog bedding
  • Pet stores
  • Doggy daycare

The time between an egg being laid and the lice’s ability to eventually lay its own eggs is about a month. However, adult lice can lay up to six eggs a day, and these eggs will begin to hatch in a little over a week. This means that a small infestation can quickly turn serious in a matter of weeks. 

There are two types of lice that infest poodles:

  • Trichodectes canis: Known as the canine chewing louse, these insects feast on the dead skin of their hosts. Although trichodectes canis is not a serious danger to your poodle, a widespread infestation can be very irritating and cause great discomfort for your dog. While uncommon in healthy dogs, trichodectes canis is a vector, or transmitter, of a tapeworm called Dipylidium caninum
  • Linognathus setosus: Often called the sucking louse, linognathus setosus eats by piercing and drinking blood from a dog’s skin. This species is most commonly found in long-haired canine breeds in cold climates. Linognathus setosus is usually found around the neck, shoulders, and under the collar.

It is possible for a poodle to contract both of these varieties of lice at one time. Sucking lice are more dangerous for smaller dogs, especially for puppies. You won’t be able to tell the difference between the two, but both lice will show similar symptoms and require similar treatment. 

Symptoms of Lice in Poodles 

There are two main changes that you will notice when you are around a poodle that is experiencing a lice infestation. Lice will affect not just the skin and hair of a poodle, but their overall behavior, as well. In each case, the side-effects of parasitic life will become increasingly apparent over time. 

Given the plethora of symptoms, the chances are good that a lice infestation will not go on too long and become dire without you noticing. Still, the best way to effectively treat dog lice on your poodle is to catch it early. Watch out for the following physical and behavioral signs.

Behavioral Symptoms of Lice in Poodles

Although the symptoms of fleas and lice are relatively similar, it will become obvious that a poodle has a potential lice problem if you live with them. Asa lice infestation grows, so will your poodle’s discomfort.

The main behavioral symptoms of lice on poodles will be:

  • Scratching
  • Biting and licking
  • Rubbing
  • Restlessness 
  • Whining

When infestations are bad enough, dogs will not be able to sleep or sit still. They may even yelp when attempting to scratch the irritated area if the infestation has been ongoing.

Severe lice infections can be incredibly exhausting for your dog. Poodles can fatigue quickly due to Anemia, Inflammation, excessive scratching, and general discomfort.

Physical Symptoms of Lice in Poodles

Lice are big enough to be seen by the human eye. Since poodles have thicker coats, lice will be most visible when you part their hair. You may notice that your dog has started to develop matted hair, inflammation, and small wounds upon closer inspection. 

Other common physical symptoms include:

  • Hair loss
  • Anemia
  • Tapeworms
  • Bacterial infections

Lice infestations in dogs can become so intense that the lice will pass on the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm. This, combined with the lice taking blood from your poodle, can result in anemia, though typically only for puppies or pregnant dogs and in only the most serious cases. 

Bald, dry, or irritated patches of skin may also occur. If left unchecked, your poodle could develop bacterial infections, which could lead to more extensive treatment. Be careful not to irritate the inflamed skin further by brushing or scrubbing too hard as you go through the treatment process. 

How to Identify Lice on Your Poodle

While fleas are small black bugs that can jump up to 13 inches. lice are tiny white or yellowish bugs with far less mobility. Lice are only able to crawl and can only live without a blood supply for a maximum of two days. Despite this, they are more than capable of multiplying quickly. 

There are three stages to the life of lice, all of which are important to identify for treatment:

  • Egg
  • Nymph
  • Adult

At all stages, the lice will be identifiable. Eggs will appear as tiny white or yellowish ovals attached to an individual hair. A nymph will have all of the characteristics of lice but be smaller than an adult. Both will have a larger backside with six legs towards the front so they can grip onto the skin.

Full-grown lice will be close to the size of a sesame seed or matchstick end. Dandruff can be confused with lice, so be sure to take a closer look. Do note, though, that dandruff can be a potential sign of a lice infection or some other skin irritation. 

Things Commonly Mistaken for Dog Lice

Similar to dandruff, there are a number of other small white objects that can get trapped in your poodle’s hair and be mistaken for lice. These are typically harmless, though they can cause some initial panic. 

Some things mistaken for dog lice of these include:

  • Sand
  • Aphids
  • Fleas
  • Mites
  • Bed bugs

There are numerous small insects that can be mistaken for lice if you’re unfamiliar with the size and coloring of lice. The best way to confirm what you are seeing is lice is to familiarize yourself with images of lice and the description given above, as they have a very distinct oval shape and white color compared to other parasites. 

Note: If you find strange bugs on your dog’s hair, even if it is not lice, do not ignore the issue. Other parasites, like ticks and fleas, can be just as volatile to your poodle’s health.

It is a good idea to make a practice out of frequently checking your poodle’s hair to ensure optimal health and well-being. 

How to Treat Lice in Poodles 

There are a variety of approaches to treating your poodle for lice, and at times, you may need to use multiple methods. It may help to contact a veterinarian before starting a treatment regimen, both to ensure that your poodle does have lice, and to be sure that all lice will be eradicated after the lengthy treatment process is complete.

You can seek out prescribed treatment from a vet, but there are plenty of over-the-counter options in your local pet store, which will work just as effectively and are likely more affordable. Overall, the process will take over a month if done properly, and although straightforward, treatment can also be fairly labor-intensive. 

Medicated Lice Treatments for Poodles

While a monthly regimen of flea and tick prevention will lower a poodle’s risk of contracting lice, once the infestation takes hold, another dose will not be strong enough to get rid of the problem. 

The most common lice insecticides for poodles consist of the following:

These active ingredients may come in the form of sprays or shampoos. In addition to treatments, most vets recommend you invest in a flea comb to help dislodge the lice. To prevent reinfestation, make sure that the lice are washed down the drain or disposed of outside of the home. 

If your poodle’s lice infestation is severe, he may develop skin infections and require other treatments such as oral or topical antibiotics. Your dog may also need to go on a diet plan if he has lost nutrients throughout the treatment process. These will be prescribed by a vet. 

Steps to Treat Lice in Poodles 

Lice are not the most pleasant insects and, unfortunately, they will take time to get rid of. However, treating your dog for lice is a simple process that can be done from the comfort of your home.

Follow these four steps to treat a poodle for lice:

Step 1: Shave or clip the affected area – The first step in treating your poodle for lice is to either clip off your dog’s matted hair or have the poodle shaved. This will make it easier for topical medicines to get fuller coverage and penetrate down to the skin.

Step 2: Apply an Insecticide treatment – The insecticide treatments listed above will usually kill the nymph and adult lice, but the eggs will not be eradicated without multiple applications. Your poodle will need multiple baths for more than a month – every 7 to 10 days – in order to kill all of the lice that eventually hatch. You will also need to treat all of the animals in your home in the same manner.

Step 3: Remove dead lice and eggs with a lice comb: Use a lice comb to draw dead lice and eggs out of your dog’s hair. Wipe the comb after each stroke onto a light-colored tissue or paper towel, checking each time for lice and nits. Using a fine-tooth lice comb may work without shaving your dog, but the process will be more labor-intensive and you may miss eggs.

Step 4: Wash everything – Everything that your dog has come in contact with will need to be washed in the hottest water possible. Take a look at your wash to see if you have a “sanitizing” cycle option that comes in handy for a moment like this. 

Items to wash after lice treatments may include:

  • Leashes
  • Bedding
  • Dog jackets
  • Collars
  • Toys
  • Rugs

Make sure that any lice you collect from these items or your dog’s hair is sealed in some sort of bag and disposed of. Lice can continue living for up to two days without a host, so get them out of the house to prevent re-exposure.

Monitor your poodle’s hair, even after multiple treatments. Wash grooming tools and towels used during treatment. 

Safety Tips When Treating Poodles for Lice

  1. Make sure to keep any medicated shampoos or other topical treatments out of the reach of your children or any other animals in the home. There are some ingredients used in treating lice that are toxic for cats to ingest. Younger or pregnant poodles may also experience life-threatening side-effects. 

2. Some treatments may also be unsafe if your poodle has a skin condition, so be sure to double-check with your veterinarian before using an over-the-counter or homemade method. Your vet can give you a detailed regimen to follow throughout the lengthy eradication process. 

3. Throughout the duration of treatment, keep your poodle away from all other dogs and animals to prevent spreading the lice infestation to other pets. The transfer of lice typically only happens in close quarters, so you can still take your poodle for a walk, but do not allow them to greet and mingle with other dogs along the way. 

4. Remember to be gentle throughout the treatment process as your poodle’s skin will likely be irritated. You can still use a comb, but avoid any raw areas or open wounds. If the wounds are bad enough, you may want to consider purchasing a cone to prevent your poodle from further irritating or licking their skin. 

How to Prevent Lice in Poodles 

Dog lice are pretty rare, but there are some tips and tricks for avoiding exposure. To start, all poodles should be on some sort of flea and tick prevention regimen. This alone will decrease a poodle’s likelihood of contracting lice.

The two main factors for lice prevention in poodles are:

  • Limiting exposure
  • Maintaining hygiene

Poodles will be at the greatest risk of lice exposure whenever they are in a space that is or was previously occupied by other dogs. Before taking your dog to the groomers or to doggy daycare, check to see how the facility is cleaned. 

If the location looks dingy, you may want to look for other options. This will prevent the spread of other potential diseases and parasites. 

You’ll also want to keep your own home clean and sterile. It is recommended that you wash your poodle every three weeks or so to keep their skin and hair in the healthiest condition. It is also important to launder your poodle’s bedding every one to two weeks as you would your own sheets and blankets. 

How do Poodles Get Lice?

All poodles can contract lice since the parasite hooks onto hair. Lice’s ability to hook onto individual hairs is what makes them difficult to scratch off or brush away. An infestation starts with just one adult lice laying an egg that attaches onto a strand of hair. 

Although poodles can get lice, it is not common if they are well cared for. Dogs who contract lice often have no home and are not washed or looked after by an owner. Poodles also tend to have more moist skin, and lice tend to prefer dry, rough skin. That being said, if poodles do contract lice, it will be harder to spot, and there will be more hair to comb through. 

Can Humans Get Lice From Poodles?

Humans cannot get lice from poodles even when coming into close contact with a lice-infected dog. Poodles are safe from human lice, as well, as dogs also cannot get lice from humans. Lice found in dogs do not find the smell nor taste of human blood enticing or nutritious.

The reason why humans cannot contract a dog’s lice is that the type of lice varies depending on the species of animal. Even cats will not be able to contract dog lice. 

If you do happen to notice lice crawling on your dog, rest assured that the lice will not be able to reproduce. Still, be sure to scrub down if you do come into contact with any animal that is infested to prevent spreading the lice to other dogs or to other areas of your home. 

Conclusion

Although the thought of lice will make most people’s skin crawl, rest assured that infestations in poodles are rare and cannot be contracted by humans. There are a number of ways to get rid of your poodle’s lice in the event that an infestation does occur. 

The process may be somewhat labor-intensive, and it may take a few tries, but eventual eradication is a sure bet. 

If you are ever unsure about the best approach or about how to identify lice on your poodle, contact your veterinarian, and if the infestation persists, have your poodle booked for a check-up. Use common sense when your poodle is around other dogs to ensure that there is little chance of contact contamination.

Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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