How to Identify Lice, Lice Eggs, and Lice in Hair
Lice are a common problem. Your pet needs to be treated regularly to prevent infestations.
All pet owners should make sure they know the signs of lice, so never hesitate to ask your veterinarian, “What do lice look like?” A pet with a lice infestation will generally be a very unhappy bedfellow.
What Does Pet Lice Look Like?
An individual lice bug is known as a louse (hence the term “lousy”).
Adult lice usually measure between 1mm and 2.2mm in length. Lice do not have wings, so they cannot fly, and they do not jump.
So, what do lice look like in a pet? Lice are pale in color and move slowly, unlike fleas. They have six legs and are gray-brown in color, though they can have shade variations like blue or red. Lice may appear as dark specks in your pet’s fur or hair. After the eggs have hatched, the nits look similar to dandruff.
How to Identify Pet Lice
You might notice your pet scratching and pass it off as normal behavior. However, if unsure, ask an expert, “What do lice look like?” If not treated, a lice infestation can cause infections. In young animals, this can be particularly serious because they are at risk of blood loss.
Always inspect your pet’s coat while grooming, and especially if your pet is scratching. You might see lice moving among pet hair or fur, but often the first visual signs of infestation are dark specks in pet hair or the tell-tale nits, resembling dandruff.
Lice are also often specific to their host – which means dogs and cats have different lice types. Thus, it is important to make sure you know how to identify lice in pets and how to use the correct treatment for your pet.
How to Identify Lice Eggs
Identifying what lice eggs look like can help detect a lice infestation at an early stage. Lice eggs are brown and oval before they hatch and look like sesame seeds. The empty shells then turn white. If you look closely at your pet’s coat, you may see what looks like either coffee grains or small white specks at the bottom of the hair shaft. This is where the female lays her eggs.
Knowing what lice eggs look like before they hatch allows you to take action before a lice infestation occurs in your pet.
Lice eggs need a host animal to survive, but they can survive for a few hours underwater and may try and cling to hairs on their animal host.
If you wet your pet’s hair and use a comb, the moisture will prevent lice from moving and help remove lice and nits.
What Do Lice Eggs Look Like Before They Hatch?
The development of a louse goes through two stages before it becomes an adult. When caring for a pet, know what lice eggs look like before they hatch.
The egg itself is brown or dark brown and oval and can look like specks of dirt in hair. The female louse lays her eggs near the hair shaft base, where it is warm enough for the eggs to gestate.
The next stage of development is the larvae or nymph. At this stage, the louse looks very much like an adult and is between 1mm and 2mm long, making it easier to see in pet hair.
The last stage of gestation is when the eggshell is empty after hatching. The eggshell turns white and may be visible in pet hair.
Nits can remain in the hair for longer than lice, which die after several days of feeding. This means it is possible to have nits with no lice. Nits still need to be removed but are often more difficult to remove and are sometimes clumped together in a sticky mass.
What Do Lice Look Like Under a Microscope?
Lice eggs are microscopic, minute organisms, which is why they are often visually confused with dandruff. Under a microscope, a louse can be seen to have six legs, although some species have eight legs. The legs are hairy to enable the louse to cling to hairs on the host.
The body of a louse is long. Chewing or biting lice have larger heads with a different jaw structure.
A louse was one of the earliest subjects examined under a microscope, appearing in the book Micrographia by Robert Hooke in 1667.
How to Identify Lice in Hair
Knowing what lice look like in hair is key to prompt treatment for your pet. Often the first sign of lice is itching. Your pet will scratch more and may seem more unsettled.
In hair, lice eggs (nits) are brown and resemble small seeds. They may measure up to 2mm at the larvae or nymph stage and be almost fully-fledged before hatching. Once hatched, adult lice are brownish with grey, yellow, red, or blue tones. The eggshells, still known as nits, turn white when empty.
Larger lice species, such as those that live on livestock, may be more active than lice found on domestic animals such as dogs and cats.
What Do Lice Look Like on a Comb?
Grooming pets is frequently how one discovers a lice infestation. However, new pet owners may wonder what lice look like on a comb.
Adult lice and larvae resemble small husks about 1mm to 2.2mm in length. They may be varying shades of light to dark brown, or cream and yellow, or bluish or reddish-brown.
Moisture immobilizes lice, so if you are combing wet pet hair, they will not be moving around.
What Do Nits Look Like on a Lice Comb?
Nits are lice eggs, both before hatching and after hatching. Nits before the larvae or nymph stages are brown and oval-shaped and 1mm or less in length. Once nits have hatched, they can resemble dandruff and may be more difficult to see on a comb.
Nits clump to the host animal’s hair shaft and can be sticky, so engage in thorough combing and a proprietary treatment.
What To Look For When Checking For Lice
It is useful to know what to look for when checking for lice.
Live lice are light to dark brown and sometimes tinted, depending on their species. Although larger lice that infest livestock or pigeons may be seen moving more quickly in that animal’s coat or even in pigeon lofts, they are slow-moving.
To the human eye, lice look like small, dark specks among hair or fur. Knowing what lice look like to the human eye can prevent misdiagnosis. For example, dark specks may look like dirt, and the white nits may be confused with dandruff.
Pet behavior is also an indicator of lice. Different lice species prefer different animal areas, so if your pet is constantly scratching a particular area, you should begin checking for lice there.
Keep a lookout for falling fur, matted hair, broken or fallen feathers, and unsettling behavior. Weight loss and anemia are other signs of a lice infestation.
What Do Mites Look Like Compared to Lice?
Mites belong to the arachnid family and are related to spiders, whereas lice are microscopic insects. However, there are some similarities. Both species are brownish and can be tinged with red, yellow, or blue. In the case of mites, there may be a green tinge.
Lice live near the base of a hair shaft on the skin, whereas mites burrow beneath the skin. Lice have six legs usually located at the front of their body, but mites have their legs spaced out around their body.
Both parasites cause itching and rashes, so you should seek a veterinary opinion in either case to prevent a serious infestation.
Looking Out For Lice
Knowing how to look for lice is an important part of being a pet owner.
Lice cause itching, rashes, hair fall, patchy coat, feather breakage, sore skin, and bites that can become infected. Pets may also lose weight or become anemic. Larger pets, such as horses or pigs, will seek any surface to rub against to relieve itching.
Lice are often specific to one animal species and prefer certain parts of their body. If you find lice in one area, examine your pet gently all over, parting the hair and inspecting the hair shaft. If you have birds, check the base of feathers.
Lice frequently affect animals who live or spend time outdoors, rather than stay-at-home pets. Lice are also more prevalent in cold weather when animals’ coats are thicker.
Regular grooming and examination can help prevent lice from getting a grip on your pet.
What Does a Lice Infestation Look Like?
Knowing what a lice infestation looks like is not a stage you want to reach as a pet owner. Knowing what the beginning stage of lice looks like could save both you and your pet many discomforts.
An infestation in a pet will usually start with scratching, weight loss, bald patches, sore skin, and bites that may become infected. Some animals may develop mange, and the types of lice which aim for ears can cause middle ear infections in animals. Your pet may have a particular spot that is badly infected and where the fur has fallen away to reveal sore skin and infected bites. Your pet may also be anemic and listless or agitated as it tries to find relief from the itching.
Lice bugs are visible even as eggs and nits, especially if you use a magnifying glass while examining your pet’s coat.
Certain other insects may look like lice – for example, small spiders or mites.
Nits can be mistaken for specks of dirt or dandruff, or they may be entirely invisible to the naked eye. Therefore, a magnifying glass is a handy way of getting to the root of your pet’s problem.
Looking Out For Lice Poop
Lice excrete, and these louse droppings appear like brown dust or as dark specks. Excretions are usually dry but may help fuel infection if there is a bite wound nearby.
In humans, lice droppings have been linked to ear infections and infected scalps when there is an entry point for bacteria from scratching.
Pet lice generally do not bother humans, but some types can cause skin rashes. Keeping your pet free from lice is as important as keeping yourself free from lice because where there are lice, there are also lice droppings.
What Do Beginning Stages of Lice Look Like?
A change in pet behavior may signal the beginning of lice on board. Increased scratching and brown or white specks in your pet’s coat are early signs. If you part the fur, you may see a red bite mark on their skin. The skin will look sore and untreated bites will possibly become infected.
In some animals, mange can occur as the rash spreads.
What To Look For After Lice Treatment
A new pet owner might wonder what to look for after lice treatment has begun.
Topical treatments for lice can work in as little as two weeks, although some are repeated every three weeks. Insecticides will kill lice, and in some cases, flea treatments may work too.
If you do not know what to look for after lice treatment, take expert advice. The first treatment will not penetrate lice eggs but should kill adult lice and nymphs. However, the nits will produce more lice in a short while, so lice treatment is usually a four-week procedure. All animals in the household should be treated to prevent cross-infection.
Dead lice and nymphs look similar to how they did when alive. Nits that have hatched are white and cannot produce another generation, but should be removed, as they stick to hair shafts.
Sluicing down your pet immobilizes lice. Grooming is another way to show lice the door.
Lice have hairs on their legs, enabling them to cling to pet hairs – and cling they will. But to help you identify the enemy, first get to know the enemy.
What Do Dog and Cat Lice Look Like?
Different species of lice cause dog lice and cat lice. However, these different lice types are similar in appearance – tiny, pale gray-brown insects with six legs that move slowly. Lice have a large head. They measure between three-quarters of a millimeter and just under two-and-a-half millimeters long.
Different species of lice are specific to the animal they infect. So, cats and dogs cannot transmit lice to each other. And, humans cannot transmit lice to animals, or vice versa.
The best way to understand what dog and cat lice look like is to inspect your pet’s coat for the tell-tale nits left when the lice larvae hatch.
What Do Dog Lice Look Like?
A lice infestation in dogs is called canine pediculosis. Pediculosis is the general name for a lice infestation.
Dog lice are light to dark brown and can be one of three species of lice:
Linognathus setosus is a bloodsucking louse;
Trichodectes canis is a louse that bites; and
Heterodoxus spiniger bites then sucks, but are not common in North America.
Well-cared-for dogs with active social lives can become infected, as lice can transfer from one dog to another very easily when dogs play together.
It is less common for dogs who live most of the time indoors to contract lice, but dogs who live outdoors are at high risk of lice and need regular preventative treatments and examinations. Matted coats or neglect puts dogs at higher risk from lice.
Dogs in poor health may be especially prone to a lice infestation, which in turn can make their general health worse due to the risk of blood loss and infection from bites.
The first sign of lice infestation in a dog is likely to be scratching but look for other tell-tale signs like dark specks and dandruff-like nits in dog hair.
What Do Chewing Lice on Dog Look Like?
Lice on dogs can also move about in the fur. Chewing lice on dogs might look active, but it is often hard to see what chewing lice on dogs look like because lice are tiny. Rather, it is a good idea to inspect your dog’s skin if they are scratching.
Lice bites cause intense itching, and this in itself may cause infection, especially if dirt is transferred from your pet’s claws to a bite.
What Would a Dog’s Skin Look Like With Lice?
Although spotting chewing lice on a dog may be difficult, a lice infestation will cause more obvious signs of a parasitic infection. Your dog might lose areas of its coat, revealing sore skin or skin rashes. A dog’s skin with lice might also look rough or flaky.
Bites on the skin may appear sore or become infected. Puppies can be especially at risk from canine pediculosis because of the risk of blood loss and anemia.
If your dog is elderly or a puppy, it is important to check them regularly for nits before the situation gets more serious.
What Do Lice on Cats Look Like?
Cats are luckier than dogs, having only one species of louse to worry about. Felicola subrostratus lice are tiny and dark in appearance.
Spotting lice in cat fur can be difficult. Look for dark specks and pale grains from the hatched eggs.
Areas often affected by lice infestation in a cat will be the head, ears, and shoulders, as well as the groin, tail, and around the bottom.
Take notice of any excessive scratching and examine your cat for lice.
What Do Chewing Lice on Cats Look Like?
Lice move slowly but may still be visible in your cat’s coat. A chewing or biting louse might be more active.
But rather than focus on what chewing lice look like on your cat, it is more effective to thoroughly examine your pet’s coat.
Lice bites will leave skin and sore, visible if there are patches of fur falling out. Sores may also be bloody where the louse has sucked. Your cat may lick these frequently.
What Do Lice Look Like on Kittens?
Lice on kittens are comparatively uncommon, as cats living in poor or overcrowded conditions are more likely to contract lice. However, in young animals, a lice infestation can be serious because of the risk of blood loss from sucking lice.
Your kitten is likely to scratch frequently and may also mew and seem out-of-sorts. Fur may be sparser, and skin may appear sore.
It is important to obtain expert help immediately if you suspect your kitten has a lice infestation.
What Do Bird Lice Look Like?
A bird louse is a chewing machine called Phthiraptera that feeds on warm-blooded mammals. Unlike dog and cat lice, bird lice will also chew on humans.
Bird lice can change color after feeding, from a paler yellow color to a darker brown or even reddish color. They are visible to the human eye, and because they bite humans, it is useful to know what bird lice look like. They measure just three-quarters of a millimeter, making them appear like a brown dot.
Bird lice also have eight rather than six legs and might be confused with ticks.
What Do Chicken Lice Look Like?
Chicken lice are known as Menoponidae – part of the chewing lice family called Amblycera that can affect different species of birds. They are ectoparasites and live off poultry skin and feathers, but these lice leave humans alone.
Menopon gallinae is a common chicken louse that can survive under the skin of poultry. Chickens take their own steps to control mild lice infestation by having dust baths.
But, if you want to keep your chickens laying, when you see them preening frequently, or find broken feathers, look for signs of a lice infestation.
Nits can also gather around the base of the feather. Look for a grey, sticky clump that might be difficult to remove. You might also find sore skin or even observe lice crawling near the base of feathers.
What Do Pigeon’s Egg Lice Look Like?
Pigeon’s egg lice look like tiny, oval, dark brown seeds, such as flaxseed. Knowing what pigeon’s egg lice look like is important because a severe lice infestation can cause death in pigeon populations.
The pupae are often found on the ledges in pigeon lofts, and gaps in sheds or a window or vent can attract lice.
Pigeons are affected by two types of lice – the small louse and the long louse. Pigeon lice can be found on the skin of pigeons and feed off the feathers. Mites may then sit on the lice, resulting in feathers becoming ragged and dropping off. Pigeons with lice may puff their feathers more frequently.
Pigeon lice may also cause skin rashes in humans, so early detection is vital. Lice tend to come out at night, moving about in the dark in pigeon lofts. They may also vacate to neighboring domestic residences, being highly mobile.
What Do Other Pet Lice Look Like?
Lice can affect many animals, and it is helpful to know how to spot lice in animals such as pet pigs, goats, horses, and cows.
What Do Lice in Pigs Look Like?
Lice in pigs are supersized and can be seen easily.
Haematopinus suis are blood-sucking lice, despite their spidery appearance. They stick to the pig’s hairs around the ears and in the folds of skin on their legs.
Hog lice also spread easily to other pigs but do not affect humans or other species of animal.
The lice cause itching and sore skin, and your pet pig may be unsettled and shake its head. Pig lice can live happily in bedding for several weeks but die after a few days of living off a pig. However, bites can cause ear infections and mange.
What Do Goat Lice Look Like?
There are five different goat louse types, including sucking lice and chewing or biting lice, which survive off the goat’s hair, skin, and bodily secretions.
In the US, goat keepers need to be alert for the sucking lice, Linognathus africanus (African blue louse) and Linognathus stenopsis (goat sucking louse); both species are similar in appearance. However, African blue louse can infect other mammals, including poultry, dogs, and cattle.
Types of chewing goat lice include Bovicola caprae (Goat biting louse), Bovicola limbatus (Angora goat biting louse), and Bovicola crassipes (Hairy goat louse).
Goat lice are around 2mm in size. Chewing goat lice are yellowy in color while sucking goat lice are bluish.
African blue lice favor the head of the animal, goat sucking lice aim for the back legs – and chewing lice spread themselves thinly all over goats.
Goat behavior is frequently an indication of lice infestation. The coat may become matted, and your pet goat may become unsettled, moving around to try and find relief by scratching.
Some goats may suffer weight loss caused by blood loss, and in some cases, death, so careful observation and early intervention are essential.
How Do Cows Look Like With Lice?
Pet owners with some land going spare might think of keeping a cow. Cows with lice may have a patchy coat and become unsettled when they try to find relief from the itching that lice infestation causes.
Winter can be a dangerous time for lice infestations, and these can cause weight loss and poor health in cattle if untreated. Lice on cattle can be either chewing lice or sucking lice, and herding can spread any infestation.
So what do lice look like on cattle? A cow’s winter coat can offer protection to lice, who will position themselves near the hair shaft base to suck or chew. Brown is the normal color of chewing lice, but sucking lice may be blue or even have a reddish tinge after feeding.
Cattle coats are sometimes spotted with dark specks, or dandruff-like nits appear in the coat.
Timing lice treatment in cattle is important for it to be effective. October and November are thought to be the best time to treat cows. Miscalculating the timing or under-dosing can allow lice to spread and cause a major infestation in cattle.
What Do Lice Look Like on Horses?
Lice on horses can be either sucking or chewing louse.
Haematopinus asini is the sucking louse – and its chewing cousin is known as Bovicola (Werneckiella), formerly called Damalinia equi.
Lice can affect horses in the colder months when they have grown their winter coat.
The color of sucking horse lice can range from paler brown to dark brown. Sucking lice may favor the areas where the hair is thicker, such as the mane and tail. They are usually around 2mm long and are not mobile.
Bovicola (Werneckiella) lice are smaller and more active, so it might be possible to see them moving about. They also prefer less dense hair areas on the host horse and are smaller and lighter in color than their sucking colleague.
If you lift the mane or part it, you may be able to see specks of brown near the base of the hair shafts or lighter, dandruff-like nits on the hair shaft.
Lice can spread from tools and tack and can also infect other equine species, including donkeys and mules.
Horses stabled during colder months are less likely to develop a lice infestation, as lice prefer a warm coat in the winter.
Our pets rely on us to keep them safe and well. Remember, regular grooming and examinations can help prevent the humble louse from getting a lice-like grip on your pet.