Chewing lice and mange mites are not the same, although some symptoms of these parasites in dogs overlap. You can get rid of them with some of the same medications and remove any stragglers from your home with the same methods. First, your vet must diagnose the type of louse or mite affecting your dog.
Canine Chewing Lice
Trichodectes canis is the chewing louse in dogs. It's tiny and wingless; it grabs your dog's hair with relatively large jaws. It can also spread tapeworms. Unless your dog is heavily infested, you probably won't notice any signs of chewing lice. Canines with a lice load scratch or bite at affected areas, most often the tail, head and neck. A severely infested dog loses hair, or his coat appears rough and possibly matted. Bad infestations cause intense itching, to the point where the animal is restless and can't sleep or relax. Unlike sucking lice, chewing lice rarely cause wounds -- which are easily infected -- to develop on the skin, unless the infestation is severe.
Chewing Lice Treatment
Your vet diagnoses chewing lice by examining your dog and finding lice or nits -- lice eggs on the hair shafts. Several prescription and over-the-counter topical flea control products eradicate chewing lice. These include medications including fipronil, found in the brand Frontline, and selamectin, available by prescription under the brand name Revolution. Regular monthly applications should keep lice at bay.
Ensure lice aren't still in the environment by replacing all of your dog's brushes, and throwing out and replacing or washing all of his bedding with bleach and hot water. Dry all items thoroughly in a clothes dryer. The same holds true for his collar. If you have other dogs in your house, you'll need to treat them and replace or sterilize their bedding and collars.
Canine Demodetic Mange
Almost all dogs have a few demodectic mange mites on their bodies, which usually cause no harm. In some dogs with compromised immune systems -- or with genetic predisposition -- these mites multiply, resulting in hair loss, bacterial infections and skin inflammation all over the body. Dogs with mild cases of demodectic mange don't usually itch, but that's not true of a severe infestation. This type of mange isn't contagious.
Demodectic Mange Treatment
Your vet conducts deep skin scrapings to identify demodectic mange. She'll probably recommend medicated shampoos and dips to help the skin, along with prescribing antibiotics for skin infections and medications to kill mites. A dog diagnosed with an immune-related disorder requires treatment.
Canine Sarcoptic Mange
Sarcoptic mange results from infestation by the microscopic mites Sarcoptes scabei. It's quite contagious between canines and can also infest people as scabies. While you can't see either type of mange mite, scabies in dogs results in intense scratching, leading to lesions that often become infected. Affected areas might turn red and lose hair. While sarcoptic mange most frequently appears on the face, ears, legs and elbows, it can spread all over the body. Without treatment, a badly affected dog can die.
Sarcoptic Mange Treatment
Your vet diagnoses scabies via a skin scraping. Treatment includes clipping affected areas and dipping the animal with a lime-sulfur dip -- usually several dips are required over a few weeks. Ivermectin, a dewormer found in heartworm medications such as Revolution, also gets rid of sarcoptic mange mites. Your vet might prescribe antibiotics for secondary infections. Replace or sterilize your dog's bedding, etc., as with lice infestations.
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.