Ringworm in Dogs – 10 Important things you should know

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Ringworms in dogs – What you need to know ?

Dermatophytosis is the medical term for the fungal infection affecting the skin, hair, and/or nails (claws) that is more commonly referred to as ringworm.

 The most commonly isolated fungal organisms are Microsporum canisTrichophyton mentagrophytes, and Microsporum gypseum. This disease occurs in dogs, cats, and other species of animals, including people. It is diagnosed more commonly in young individuals than in aduld.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats please visit this page in the petMD health library.

Pictures of Ringworm in dogs

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Symptoms of Ringworm in Dogs

Symptoms of ringworm in dogs often include some combination of the following:

  • Hair loss (alopecia), which may be patchy or circular
  • Broken hairs and poor hair coat
  • Reddened or ulcerated skin
  • Dandruff (scales)
  • Darkened skin
  • Crusting of the skin
  • Itchiness (pruritus) may or may not be present

Less frequently, dogs develop a raised nodular lesion that may ooze called a kerion. The nails and claw folds (the skin bordering the nail) may also be infected by ringworm fungus, which results in brittle or misshapen nails.

Occasionally, dogs are classified as asymptomatic or silent carriers. In other words, they harbor the disease-causing fungus but present no visible signs of the condition. These dogs can still pass the disease on to humans and other animals.

How Do Dogs Get Ringworm?

There are a few ways that dogs can get ringworm. Dogs most commonly are infected with the fungi Microsporum canisMicrosporum gypseum, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes

The incidence of these and the less common species that cause ringworm varies according to your geographic location. Dogs often catch ringworm through direct contact with animals or people who have ringworm themselves, some of whom may have little or no clinical evidence of the disease.

Ringworm fungus can also be spread through contaminated objects like bedding, brushes, clippers, and cages. Some species of ringworm live in the soil, and dogs can become sick after contacting dirt that is home these organisms.

Anything that decreases the body’s ability to mount an effective immune response (such as young age, immunocompromising diseases, or immunosuppressive medications) increases the likelihood that your dog will develop ringworm, as well as increase the potential for a more severe infection.

Environments that are densely populated with animals (for example, in an animal shelter or kennel), or where there is poor nutrition, poor management practices, and lack of an adequate quarantine period, also increase risk of infection.

Finally, disruptions to the normal protective barrier of the skin, like wounds or a flea infestation, increase a pet’s susceptibility to ringworm.

Diagnosis of Ringworm in Dogs

Your veterinarian will perform a fungal culture of plucked hairs or skin scales, a microscopic examination of a sample of hair, or possibly a skin biopsy if he or she suspects ringworm.

Sometimes veterinarians will use a Wood’s lamp to identify where to take samples from. Some types of ringworm fungus fluoresce when exposed to light from a Wood’s lamp, but others do not. Additional testing may also be necessary.

Treatment of Ringworm in dogs

Most dogs can be treated for ringworm on an outpatient basis, but quarantine procedures should be considered due to the contagious and zoonotic (transmissible to humans) nature of many types of ringworm.

In mild cases, topical treatment may be all that is needed to speed recovery and reduce the chances that the disease will spread to other animals or people. Shaving a pet with a long coat can help topical medications reach the skin.

Options include lime sulfur dips, enilconazole rinses, and miconazole shampoos.

For more severe cases, a veterinarian will also prescribe oral anti-fungal drugs like itraconazole, griseofulvin, fluconazole, terbinafine, or ketoconazole. Treatment often must continue for several months and should not be stopped until followup diagnostic testing shows that the dog is free of ringworm. If an underlying condition (e.g., malnutrition, administration of immunosuppressive drugs, etc.) is thought to be playing a role in the dog’s development of ringworm, it should be addressed as well.

Living and Management of Ringworm in Dogs

Repeated fungal cultures are the best way to monitor your dog’s response to treatment. Some animals will look better with treatment, but ringworm is still present in their fur, skin, or nails. If treatment is stopped too soon, the dog may relapse and continue to pose a risk to other individuals.

Most veterinarians will wait until a dog has no clinical signs of ringworm and at least one negative fungal culture before recommending that treatment be stopped. Also, monthly checks of blood work may be indicated for dogs receiving ketoconazole or itraconazole as these drugs can be toxic to the liver.

It may be necessary to screen or treat other animals (and people) in the home that have had contact with a ringworm positive pet to prevent reinfections from occurring. 

Ringworm in dogs Prevention

Pets undergoing treatment for ringworm need to be isolated to prevent the spread of the disease to other animals or people. Wear disposable gloves and wash your skin and clothes after handling an infected pet.

To decontaminate your home, thoroughly vacuum floors and upholstery and clean hard surfaces with an effective disinfectant like a dilute bleach solution.

Your veterinarian can put together an appropriate plan for treatment, monitoring, and environmental decontamination based on the specifics of your dog’s case.

Ringworm in dogs

  • Ringworm isn’t actually a worm, but a fungus that is similar to athlete’s foot
  • Dogs with ringworm suffer hair loss, usually in patches, with a crusty covering but lots of other skin conditions look very similar
  • Ringworm can be passed from your dog to you and other people who come into contact with your dog
  • If you think your dog has ringworm, visit your vet for advice and treatment. But ringworm doesn’t occur very often and lots of other skin conditions look similar.

Despite its name, ringworm is not a worm but a fungus, similar to athlete’s foot.

It produces infective ‘seeds’ called spores, which are quite hardy and are tricky to get rid of in the environment. They can live for years and it takes just one spore to cause an infection. However, only broken skin can be infected; a dog with healthy skin will not pick up a ringworm infection.

Ringworm can infect skin in all animals, including people as well as dogs, although infection in people is uncommon and it usually just causes one or two circular patches of red, irritated skin. It can sometimes be more severe in children, or people with a weakened immune system. If you think you have ringworm, see your doctor. Infection is more likely to occur if there is skin damage, such as a scratch or sore.

What does ringworm look like in dogs?

In dogs, ringworm has a number of different appearances, most often areas of hair loss with a crusty covering, or (rarely) may be asymptomatic. Patches of ringworm may look like a grey, scaly patch in some dogs, but more like a red lesion in others. You may see some hair loss or patches of broken hair. But lots of other (more common) skin conditions look very similar.

Young, elderly, or long-haired dogs are more commonly affected.

Generally, ringworm lesions appear on dogs’ paws, legs, head and ears, but they can appear on any part of the body.

Diagnosing ringworm in dogs

If you think your dog has ringworm, you will need to take them to the vet as they will need treatment to cure it and stop it from spreading to people and other pets in your family.

There are a few methods that vets use to diagnose ringworm. Your vet may use an ultraviolet lamp to look at your dog’s fur and skin. This is because some types of ringworm will show up under this type of light.

Your vet will most likely look at a sample of your dog’s fur under a microscope to see if they can spot the fungus. They might also take a sample from your dog’s skin and place it in a dish to see if it will grow under lab conditions. This is the most reliable test but it takes 10 days to give results.

How is ringworm in dogs treated?

After confirming that your dog is suffering from ringworm, your vet will use medication to treat your dog.

Depending on the type of ringworm your dog has and how severe it is, they may give your dog tablets to take that will stop the ringworm from reproducing.

Your dog may need a topical medication (something that is applied to the skin) for eg a lotion or a shampoo. Follow the instructions carefully and make sure you treat your dog as needed as failure to do so risks infection recurring.

Some dogs may need both tablets and topical medication to cure their ringworm infection.

Can you get ringworm from your dog?

Yes, ringworm is contagious to people and is caught through touching an infected dog. You cannot catch ringworm if your skin is unbroken, but if you have a scratch, graze, wound or suffer from a skin condition such as eczema, you may catch the infection.

People with weaker immune systems are more at risk of catching ringworm from dogs, including young children, elderly people, people undergoing chemotherapy or treatment involving transplants or transfusions. We recommend that you don’t let children touch your dog if he or she has ringworm.

When treating your dog for ringworm, wear gloves and an apron. Note that some tablets should not be handled if you are pregnant.

If you haven’t picked up ringworm from your dog by the time your vet diagnoses them with it, then you probably won’t get it at all.

In people, ringworm lesions appear as a red circle on the skin; hence its name.

How do you keep ringworm from spreading?

Ringworm spores are hardy and can live in the environment for a long time, so it’s really important that you restrict your infected dog to one room while treating them so that spores are not spread through the house. If you cure your dog of ringworm but don’t eradicate it from your home, your dog could become infected again.

Soft furnishings and carpets should be vacuumed thoroughly and frequently, or steam cleaned, to remove the spores.

The vacuum bag should be emptied afterwards and the contents burnt.

Other items should be cleaned with a disinfectant.

Discuss with your vet which disinfectants are effective.

Bedding and toys that cannot be cleaned are best burnt.

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