Biting Lice In Sheep: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Biting lice are just one of the parasites that can infest sheep or other ruminants, so check out this video for signs, symptoms and treatment options.

Symptoms of Biting Lice

Biting lice rear their ugly heads during some of the colder months and into early Spring. When temperatures exceed 45 degrees F, lice eggs can not survive; eliminating the issue becomes a lot easier.

As with any parasite issue in ruminant animals, observation is imperative. Watch your sheep closely for the following symptoms of biting lice:

  • Itching
  • Restlessness
  • Wool break
  • Skin irritation (red and rashy)
  • Hair that falls out just by touching and rousing
  • Excessive rubbing on poles, fences or other scratching posts
  • Anemia symptoms
  • Decreased milk production in ewes
  • Weight loss

Check more open areas of their body not densely covered with wool, such as face and legs. Wool break is a sign of a weakened immune system. It can happen because of fevers, parasites and stress. 

Lice spreads by close contact. In winter months, sheep huddle together in close quarters getting out of the weather. 


Always check with your vet for dosage and treatment plans. Common medicines for treatment include Dectomax and Ivermectin. Organic methods include diatomaceous earth and sheering (if the season is warm enough). Shearing can decrease lice issues by 30 to 50 percent but really exposing the lice to weather elements helps take care of the rest.

Always make sure the weather is going to stay above freezing before shearing your sheep. You will want to treat the sheep enclosures as well as their bodies. Spraying Permethrin and/or spreading diatomaceous earth are effective ways to treat the spaces in which your animals dwell.

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