Mites and lice in dogs

isolated dog


Mites and lice are tiny parasites that like to live on dogs (and other species). They damage the skin by biting or burrowing and often cause intense irritation.

There are many different types of mite and louse, most of which can be treated by your vet. The sooner the problem is spotted, the easier it can be to treat. It’s important to contact your vet for an appointment if you think your dog has an infestation.

What are mites and lice?

Mites and lice are tiny insects similar to fleas but smaller. They damage skin by biting or burrowing through it. They all cause slightly different symptoms.

Common mites and lice in dogs include:



Your vet is likely to prescribe some insecticide medication to kill the parasite (shampoo, spray or spot-on).

Other medication

If necessary, they may also give your dog medicine to cure any bacterial skin infections and reduce itching.

When to contact your vet

Contact your vet if your dog develops a skin problem or you think they could have mites or lice.

You know your dog best. If they don’t have the symptoms listed above but you are still concerned it’s always best to contact your vet.

Ongoing care

Always follow the instructions for the treatment your vet prescribes. It’s likely your dog will need check-up appointments so your vet can assess your dog’s improvement.


Once cured, it’s unusual for a dog to continue suffering with mites or lice.

If your dog is having regular problems with mites, your vet may want to investigate for other illnesses.

If your dog is regularly suffering with lice, you will need to check their living space is clean and louse-free.


Help to reduce your dog’s risk of lice or mites by regularly de-fleaing them; many flea treatments also kill other parasites.


Treatment for mites and lice can become very expensive if the problem doesn’t clear up quickly. Consider insuring your dog as soon as you get them, before any signs of illness start. This will ensure you have all the support you need to care for them.

It’s also very important to speak openly to your vet about your finances, the cost of treatment, as well as what you think is right for your dog. There are often several treatment options so if one doesn’t work for you and your pet then the vet may be able to offer another.

Published: January 2019

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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst