Identify and manage lice infections in animals

Lice

What they are

Lice are small, flat-bodied ectoparasites that can affect all types of livestock including cattle, sheep and poultry.

They can be divided into two subcategories:

  • Biting lice: feed on skin debris, hair and blood or scabs. They are found mainly on the neck, shoulders and body of the animal.
  • Sucking lice: pierce the skin and suck the animal’s blood. In large numbers this can lead to anaemia. Sucking lice are found on the head and neck.

Lice most commonly cause problems in winter when animals are intensively housed together.

The harm lice cause

Symptoms of infection include:

  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Anaemia (from sucking lice)
  • Skin damage

Lice can also have a significant economic impact. A heavy infestation can cause an animal to lose weight, leading to a drop in its production. Anaemia caused by sucking lice can make an animal more susceptible to disease. Both can result in increased feed and treatment costs.

In addition, animals may try and ease the intense itching lice can cause by rubbing on fences, potentially damaging both the fence and their skin.

Animals that are diseased or poorly nourished are more susceptible to severe infestations than healthy ones. As a result the economic loss in these animals can be even greater.

How to control lice

The best way to control lice is through the use of insecticides. These come in a variety of forms including pour-ons, sprays, powders, injections and drops.

However, to treat the problem effectively it is important to identify the specific species of lice. This is because not all drugs are effective for all lice.

In order to identify the lice species, you will need to take a deep skin scrape from your animal. We recommend you do this under guidance from your vet.

We identify lice species

We can identify the lice species you removed from your animal.

Our test kits include instructions on how take a sample, a guide to help you interpret the results and advice on what to do next.

As soon as we’ve completed the test we’ll get in touch and let you know what the results are.