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Lice on Pets

What Lice Are and How to Deal With Them

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If your pet rat, mouse, gerbil or guinea pig is itching and scratching, they may have a common ecto-parasite called lice. The word is intimidating and probably makes you itch just thinking about it, but never fear, important advice is here.  Pet lice can be treated and eliminated safely if you know what to do.

1. Kill the Lice!

Photo © A.D.A.M.

If you suspect your rodent has lice, seek medical attention from your exotic pet veterinarian immediately. Your vet can diagnose your pet and treat it appropriately, possibly using a drug like Ivermectin. Do not attempt to buy over-the-counter medication from a drug store or pet store to treat rodent lice. Human lice treatments are far too strong for a small rodent and can kill your pet. Pet store treatments can be dangerous in their own right, causing seizures or just being ineffective. It's better to rid the lice from your pet, than the pet from the lice, so play it safe.

2. Clean the Cage

After your pet has received proper treatment, and before returning your pet to it's enclosure, thoroughly clean and wash the cage, dishes, and any toys in the your pet, with water and some mild dish detergent. Be sure to rinse all the soap off before putting fresh bedding in. Throw out any bedding and food that could have been previously infected, and freeze any remaining materials to kill any insects that may be hiding out.

3. Species Specific

This means humans get human lice, mice get mouse lice, guinea pigs get guinea pig lice, and so on. So don't worry about you or your child getting lice from your furry pet with pediculosis (lice infestation). If a louse jumps on you it won't bite you, and it won't survive.

4. Mites Vs. Lice

Simply put, mites are arachnids like spiders and ticks, and lice are insects like ants. There are also two kinds of lice, sucking lice and biting or chewing lice. The sucking lice are more worrisome than the chewing lice because of the possibility of blood borne disease transmission and anemia (excessive blood loss).

5. Rodents at Risk

Photo © Flickr User orangeacid

Rats, mice, guinea pigs, and gerbils are the most common pet rodents to acquire lice. Oddly enough, as popular and overbred as they have become, hamsters are not widely known to be infected with lice.

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