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Veterinarian discusses lice outbreak in Yellowstone County

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Posted at 10:36 AM, Dec 30, 2022

BILLINGS - When it comes to man’s best friend, fleas and ticks are the first thought when seeing them scratching or itching a little too much.

But currently, Yellowstone County is under an outbreak of lice.

Watching their best friends have fun is one of the best feelings for dog lovers. But sometimes that playing is spreading more than just joy. It could also spread an irritating little parasite.

And it has veterinarians and doggy daycares paying close attention throughout Billings.

"I would recommend that you would be vigilant when looking at your dog. If you're noticing they’re itchy and you’re potentially worried about this, we recommend not bringing them into day camp or grooming," said Cheyenne Risdon, service manager at Dee-O-Gee Billings.

Caring Hands Veterinary Hospital in Billings reported the outbreak earlier this month and owner Amber Herron says it's not uncommon this time of year.

"Lice tend to increase in the winter months just because we get more crowding, we get more togetherness of people and pets, and we snuggle more, so to speak. So yeah, it tends to be kind of a peak time for lice," said Herron.

Lice live on their hosts, so unlike fleas and ticks, they’re not likely to jump ship unless it’s on to a new four-legged target.

"People get together for family gatherings of course over the holidays and dogs get together during those times too because of it and play, and it’s really great. But obviously if one of them has it, there’s a good chance the other ones do too," said Herron.

She mentioned that beds, blankets, and brushes may help the parasites jump around as well, but their focus is strictly on dogs.

"Lice are very species-specific, so you don’t have to worry about your kids or your cat, and you don’t even have to worry about your guinea pig," Herron said.

And thankfully, the fix for your dog’s itch is pretty quick, according to Herron.

"The really great thing is that they’re easily treatable. We have a pill that you give, it lasts for three months, it’ll keep them from cycling around and reproducing and things like that. It kills them right away in six to seven days but then continues to kill them, so they (lice) don’t repopulate," Herron said.

But she says the best course of action is preventative measures like flea and tick medication to ensure your furry friends don’t get itchy to begin with.

"You don’t have to stop taking your dog out, you don’t have to stop doing things with your dogs or stop having them interact. Just protect them, just like you would with ticks or any other parasite," said Herron.

So they can still have fun without a visit from K9 cooties.