Healthy puppies won't become lice-infested, but pups in poor health may. Fortunately, getting rid of lice is relatively straightforward. Once you've eradicated these pests, using a monthly topical or oral flea-and-tick product keeps lice away.
Flat and wingless, lice are host-specific. That means dog lice won't feed on humans, and vice versa. Two types of lice affect dogs. One sucks blood and the other chews skin. An individual dog louse lives for 3 weeks, spending all of that time on a canine host. You can see lice on a puppy -- these small, light brown creatures don't move that quickly. Their eggs or nits collect in a puppy's hair, resembling dandruff.
Puppies with lice look unthrifty. Symptoms will come to include incessant scratching, poor coat quality, matting and hair loss. Generally, puppies with lice lose hair around their heads, shoulders and private parts. Lice also congregate on open wounds. Severely infested puppies suffer from anemia due to blood loss, and tapeworms transmitted by the lice. It's possible that a puppy could lose up to a quarter of his blood in a bad infestation, according to the website Veterinary Partner.
Diagnosis isn't complicated -- your vet can see the lice. She might recommend bathing your puppy with a shampoo designed to kill lice and following with a topical flea-and-tick medication to do in the lice that later hatch from nits. You will probably need to bathe your puppy with the shampoo every two weeks for a month. If your puppy suffers from sucking lice, they can create tiny wounds on his skin that become infected. Your vet might prescribe antibiotics to combat any infection. Buy new bedding for your puppy and throw out his old bedding. If that's not feasible, wash his bedding in hot water with detergent and bleach.
Even if other dogs in your household show no signs of lice, they must also be treated. That includes shampooing every two weeks. Keep your puppy and other dogs in your household away from strange canines until you're sure your pets are lice-free. After that, keep all of them on flea-and-tick preventatives on a schedule recommended by your vet.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.