It might surprise you to know that ringworm is not actually a worm at all, but a fungal infection. Common in all regions of the world, ringworm can infect almost any animal, including dogs, which is why dog owners should be aware of the signs, causes, symptoms, and treatment.
What is Ringworm Exactly?
Ringworm gets its confusing name from its raised, round, red ring appearance that can be clearly seen in human ringworm infections. Scientifically known as dermatophytes, ringworm in dogs is commonly caused by a fungus known as Microsporum Canis. This fungus lives and grows in the top layer of skin and also in the hair follicles. You might also find cases of ringworm that spread to the dog’s claws. The good news is that ringworm usually affects a few areas of the dog’s body rather than causing widespread infection. Senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with lower immunity may sometimes suffer from a more severe infection.
How Does Ringworm in Dogs Spread?
Ringworm in dogs can be spread when your dog comes into direct contact with an infected animal or human. Even contaminated food bowls, bedding, carpets, and toys can spread infection. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the fungus responsible for ringworm can also stay active for up to 18 months and can be present in infected hairs that have been shed by your dog.
Is Ringworm in Dogs Life-Threatening?
While ringworm can be distressing for your dog, the good news is that it is not life-threatening. However, it is extremely contagious and will need intervention from your veterinarian. Understanding the symptoms and common signs of ringworm will help you to ensure that you catch the disease in time before it causes unnecessary discomfort for your pet and is passed to other pets or humans.
What Are the Symptoms of Ringworm in Dogs?
In dogs, ringworm will usually present themselves as areas of circular hair loss in different areas of the body. You may notice that these lesions have started to heal in the center as they become larger. Ringworm may become scabbed or inflamed and usually has a patchy appearance. Look for these common symptoms:
- Circular areas of hair loss
- Inflamed, scabby skin
- Dry and brittle hair
- Brittle and rough claws
Can Other Animals Get Ringworm?
Yes, other animals can get ringworm. Cats, for example, are also highly susceptible to the fungus that causes ringworm in dogs. Since many dog owners also own cats, the risk of the fungus spreading from dogs to cats and cats to dogs is relatively high. Most domestic animals are at risk of catching ringworm. If you are worried that your dog’s ringworm may have spread to any other animals, speak to your vet about your concerns.
Can Humans Get Ringworm?
Ringworm in dogs is not just a problem for your canine friend. It is also possible for humans to pick up the infection. The elderly, young children and those who have a compromised immune system are especially vulnerable. In humans, ringworm presents itself as a circular rash that is often itchy, scaly, and red.
The Treatment of Ringworm in Dogs
If your vet suspects ringworm, they will usually conduct a physical exam and a diagnostic test. This will involve the collection of a sample of skin or hair cells to create a fungal culture or the examination of infected hairs using a specially designed ultraviolet lamp called a Wood’s lamp. Your vet will then discuss a treatment plan for your dog if ringworm is diagnosed. Treating ringworm in dogs usually involves the following steps:
- Oral medications
- Topical therapy
- Environmental decontamination
Medications For Treating Ringworm
Topical therapy for ringworm involves an ointment, cream, or medicated shampoo that is applied to the skin and hair to control and treat the infection. Your vet might also recommend that long-haired dogs are clipped to speed up application and treatment. It can take several months for topical therapies to eliminate ringworm completely. Oral medication can also be used alongside topical treatments. Like topical therapy, anti-fungal oral medications are designed to fight the infection. These remedies must be administered for a minimum of six weeks and can also take months to eliminate the condition.
Decontaminating the Environment
Ringworm spores can live inside a dog’s hair follicles and remain contagious for many months. They can survive on bedding, furniture, grooming tools, couches, and clothing. Decontaminating the environment by cleaning up all hair should be an essential part of the ongoing treatment. It can also be a challenge. You might want to invest in a specialist animal hair vacuum or arrange professional cleaning to ensure all hair is removed from all areas. However, daily vacuuming with a regular vacuum and mopping hard floors with a disinfectant should be sufficient.
Preventing Ringworm in Dogs
Of course, as with most things, prevention is always better than the cure. One of the best ways to prevent infection and re-infection is to ensure your dog’s environment is fully cleansed regularly, including bedding and tools. Understanding the symptoms of ringworm will help to ensure that you avoid this condition in the first place. If you suspect that your dog is infected, contact your veterinarian immediately.