Can You Get Lice From Dogs or Cats?

Young girl scratching her head
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Lice are a common parasite, especially for school-aged children. Often, the family pet gets blamed for the infestation. But is your dog or cat really to blame? Can your family really get lice from your family pet?

In a word, no. People do not get lice from dogs and cats. Nor do dogs and cats get lice from people. Lice are species specific parasites. The lice that infect people only infect people. The lice that infect dogs only infect dogs. The lice that infect cats only infect cats.

Lice in People

People are susceptible to three different types of lice: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. The head louse is known as Pediculus humanus capitis. The body louse is called Pediculus humanus corporis and is also sometimes referred to as the clothes louse. The pubic louse is Pthirus pubis. You may hear it referred to as a "crab" as well. To reiterate, all three types of lice are only passed from person to person. None of them can be acquired from the family dog or cat or any other family pet.

Do Dogs and Cats Get Lice?

Yes, dogs and cats do sometimes get lice, although lice are not one of the more common parasites diagnosed. They are most common in animals that live in poor conditions without proper sanitation. Dogs can get two different types of lice: Trichodectes canis and Linognathus setosus. Cats get only one type: Felicola subrostrata.

Other types of animals are susceptible to other species of lice. But each species of animal is only infected by their own special species of lice. If a stray louse from another species does find its way onto a dog or cat or even a person, it will not remain there.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.