If you are a pet owner and your child contracts head lice, should you be concerned the lice will transfer to the pet? If your pet spends time outside or around people who have lice, should you worry the pet will bring lice into your home? In most cases, the answer to these questions is “no”. Head lice, those terribly itchy, crawling bugs that latch onto the hair shaft, are species-specific. This means each type of lice prefer to feed off of a human, or a dog, but not both. Human head lice need human blood to survive, so the lice that infest your child’s or your own hair will have no interest in the cat or dog. Likewise, if your pet contracts lice, it will be a specific species and unable to survive on humans.
Human head lice can survive only for a very short time once they leap off the human head. If you are battling lice, it is still important to vacuum the pet’s bedding or anywhere your pet spends time, but chances are the pet will not be affected. Pet lice exist, but are not common, and there is no need to worry about lice transferring from pets to humans.
Keep in mind though, if you share your home with pets, you are not completely free of risk when it comes to sharing bugs and pests other than lice. Fleas, worms, mites, and ticks are happy to move from pet to human, so check yourself, your children, and your pets regularly for infestations, bites, and itching. Fleas prefer to live on dogs and cats, but will jump to humans if the infestation is bad enough. You may end up with flea bites, especially if your pet spends time on your bed. Some parasites can create serious and sometimes fatal problems when passed from species to species. Pregnant women exposed to cat feces may come into contact with Protozoa Toxoplasma Gondaii, which can cause birth defects and miscarriage. Internal parasites are especially dangerous, so if you are stressed about the transfer of pests, be sure to contact your doctor and your veterinarian immediately about your concerns.
All parasites will trigger symptoms when they are present, so familiarity with what to look for is a big part of treating the problem. It may take longer for internal parasites to make their presence known, so should a pet or human in the house show symptoms, be sure to get all members of your family checked out. While you should not be worried about transferring head lice from people to pets, you may find yourself with other bug related concerns.