Ringworm in dogs (causes and treatment)

Ringworm in dogs (causes and treatment)

What are the symptoms and causes of ringworm?

Ringworm in dogs is the popular term given to a fungal infection of the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and nails. Ringworm infections may occur in humans and in all domesticated species of animals. The term stems from the typical look of the circular, red, elevated ‘ring’ defining the border of inflammatory lesions in persons sick with the illness.


The popular term of ringworm is rather deceptive, given that it is not an infection caused by a worm, and the affected regions are not usually ring-shaped. Dermatophytosis is the medical term for ringworm infection, which is caused by a kind of fungus known as a dermatophyte.

There are a lot of different species of dermatophytes. Some kinds of dermatophytes are species specific, meaning that they will only infect one species, whilst others may be passed across other species of animals, or from animals to humans.

The three most frequent fungal species that may cause ringworm in dogs are Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. These three kinds of ringworm are zoonotic, meaning they may also infect people.

What does ringworm look like on dogs?

What does ringworm look like?

The keratin present in the outer layers of skin, hair, and nails is the food source for ringworm fungus. Infected hair follicles in dogs can result in hair shafts snapping off at the skin’s surface. This frequently results in circular areas of hair loss. As the fungus spreads, the lesions may become oddly shaped and spread across the dog’s body.

Hair loss (alopecia) in a roughly circular pattern is typical in dogs with ringworm lesions. Hair may begin to regenerate in the center of these circular lesions as they become larger. The hair shafts afflicted by this condition are thin and brittle.

These lesions are not generally irritating, but occasionally they become irritated and produce a scabby coating. In most instances, there are multiple patches of alopecia dispersed over the body. Occasionally fungal infection of the nails (onychomycosis) may arise. Rough, brittle, and shattered are the hallmarks of the claws.

Ringworm fungus may be present in the hair or skin of certain dogs, but they may not display any symptoms of illness. These dogs may transfer ringworm to other animals or humans while having no apparent skin lesions, and are dubbed ‘asymptomatic carriers’.

Humans and animals in shelters and kennels are particularly at risk from asymptomatic carriers because they may transmit the ringworm fungus to other animals and people without displaying any symptoms of their own.

How do i tell if my dog has ringworm?

What is the most common way that ringworm is spread?

Direct touch with the fungus is the only way to spread ringworm. Direct contact with an infected animal or human, as well as handling contaminated goods or touching contaminated surfaces, are all ways in which it may be transmitted to a healthy individual.

spores of the fungus may stay latent on combs, brushes, food bowls and other items for months at a time (reportedly up to 18 months).

Contact with ringworm fungus may not necessarily result in an infection. The quantity of environmental contamination is a significant element in the development of a ringworm infection, as is the age of the exposed human or animal. Healthy adult individuals are normally resistant to infection unless there is a breach in the skin such as a scratch.

Elderly persons, small children, and adults with immune system deficits or skin sensitivities are most prone to ringworm infection. A pet or another student at school may be the source of your child’s ringworm. If you or your family members develop suspected skin lesions, consult with your family physician promptly.

How long does it take for the lesions to appear?

Seven to fourteen days is the typical incubation time between skin contact and formation of ringworm lesions; but, in certain instances, indications of infection may not appear for up to 21 days.

How can you know if you have a ringworm infection?

Diagnosis is accomplished in one or more of the following three ways:

  • Identification of the classic ‘ringworm’ lesions on the skin. This is a sloppy procedure that might lead to incorrect diagnoses. Additional diagnostic tests are frequently necessary to establish if ringworm fungus is present.
  • Fluorescence of diseased hairs under a specific UV light known as a Wood’s lamp. When the skin and coat are inspected with a Wood’s lamp in a dark environment, most instances of canine ringworm caused by M. canis have a yellow-green flourescence. However, not all instances of M. canis will fluoresce, and neither T. mentagrophytes or M. gypseum glow under a Wood’s lamp. False positives have been reported with skin ointments and other products that glow in the dark. While this approach is suitable in some instances as a fast screening tool in multi-animal farms, diagnosis based on Wood’s light assessment is not always trustworthy.
  • Diagnosing ringworm in dogs is best done with a fungal culture of hair or skin cells. If the fungus spores are sluggish to proliferate, a positive culture may take up to four weeks to confirm, although this is not always the case. Therefore, a suspected sample cannot be declared negative until at least a month.

Hair loss in dogs may be caused by a variety of things. Before establishing a diagnosis of ringworm, your veterinarian may prescribe further testing to rule out any of these causes.

How is ringworm treated?

Regardless of the severity of the disease, treatment of ringworm in dogs is always required to prevent the transmission of infection to children or other pets. The particular kind of treatment advised by your veterinarian to treat your dog will depend on the severity of the infection, how many dogs are involved, whether there are youngsters or vulnerable individuals in the family, and how tough it will be to clean your pet’s surroundings.

Topical treatment (the use of creams, ointments, or shampoos) and systemic therapy are the most frequent methods for treating canine ringworm (administration of anti-fungal drugs by mouth). All environmental pollution must be removed for therapy to be effective.

Dog bath for topical treatment

Occasionally, topical therapy is used alone for treatment of ringworm, but more usually it is used in conjunction with oral drugs. Ringworm may be treated using a variety of lotions and ointments that are applied locally to the skin.

If just one or two regions of your dog’s hair are affected, your veterinarian may advise shaving or cutting the hair in those areas, as well as washing your dog at least twice weekly with a medicated shampoo.

It is essential crucial to always utilize solutions that have been specially prescribed or suggested by your veterinarian for topical treatment of dogs. Topical therapy will typically be essential for a period of several weeks to many months.

Wash your hands and sterilize any surfaces your dog has come into touch with after washing or treating him with a bleach solution (see Environmental cleaning below).

Oral therapy

In the majority of instances of ringworm, successful therapy will need administration of an oral anti-fungal medicine. The most regularly used medicine for this purpose is griseofulvin, however newer treatments like as itraconazole or terbinafine (Lamasil) are being used more often and are typically favored as they have less adverse effects.

The response of individual dogs to treatment varies and if medication is discontinued too soon, the sickness may reoccur. Treatment usually lasts six weeks or more, although in rare circumstances it is necessary to continue treatment for much longer. Ringworm cultures will be collected frequently after the commencement of therapy to evaluate whether your pet is still infected. generic medicationTypically two consecutive negative ringworm cultures indicate your pet has been effectively treated, at which point therapy may be terminated.

DO NOT discontinue treatment until your veterinarian has given this suggestion. Stopping therapy too soon might result in a return of the fungus.

If there is more than one pet in the family, attempt to segregate infected from non-infected animals and solely treat the infected ones. In certain instances it may be beneficial to treat all of the pets. Your veterinarian will provide guidance on the most appropriate course of action for your pet in light of the specifics of your situation.

Environmental cleaning

Infected hairs contain countless tiny fungus spores that may be lost into the environment. Direct contact with an infected dog or exposure to fungus spores in a polluted environment may cause infection in other animals and people.

In addition to preventing direct contact with an infected dog, it is also crucial to maintain the surroundings as clear of spores as possible. The use of topical antifungal treatments on infected skin together with hair clipping (and the subsequent disposal of the clipped hair) may help decrease environmental contamination. It is crucial to clean pet hair from floors or furniture since it may be infected with fungus spores.

Restricting the dog to areas of the home that are easier to clean is also a good idea. Environmental contamination may be reduced by thorough wet mopping or vacuum cleaning of any rooms or spaces that are accessible to your dog; this should be done regularly.

It is possible to destroy fungal spores by diluting chlorine bleach (1 pint in 4 liters of water) or by diluting it 1:10 to 1:100, depending on the practicality of the application.

Treatment of ringworm may be difficult and expensive in institutions with many animals, such as animal shelters or kennels, and environmental contamination can be difficult to manage.

Dog in garden

How long will my dog remain contagious?

Infected dogs remain infectious for around three weeks if vigorous therapy is undertaken. The ringworm infection will endure longer and be infectious for a prolonged amount of time if just basic steps are done or if you are not loyal with the advised method. During this time, it’s best to keep your pet away from other dogs and family members.

Will my dog recover from ringworm?

A ringworm infection in dogs may be cured in the great majority of cases with the proper care. Recurrence of signs is possible if therapy is stopped too early or is not vigorous enough (ie, only topical treatment was used), or if the pet has an immunity-compromising condition. Occasionally symptoms reoccur because the dog is a carrier of ringworm.

Is ringworm contagious from dog to human?

What is the danger to humans?

Ringworm may be transferred relatively readily to people, particularly small children, and it is crucial to take adequate efforts to avoid exposure to the fungus while the dog is being treated (see Environmental cleaning above) (see Environmental cleaning above). Ringworm is more likely to be transferred to and induce clinical indications in persons who have a low immune system.

If any persons in the home have skin lesions such as little spots of skin thickening and reddening with raised scaly borders, seek medical assistance immediately. When it comes to treating human ringworm, the results are often extremely positive. For up to 18 months after first exposure, the ringworm fungus may re-infect people. Handling diseased animals necessitates the use of protective gloves and a complete hand washing thereafter.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Ringworm in Dogs?

A Wood’s lamp inspection, a fungal culture, and a PCR test are the most typical methods used by your veterinarian to diagnose ringworm.

A Wood’s lamp generates long-wave ultraviolet light (a sort of “black light”) to assist identify microorganisms. The fungus Microsporum canis (the most frequent cause of ringworm infections in dogs) triggers a chemical reaction when it adheres to hair follicles, causing them to glow when a Wood’s light shines. No fluorescence will be noticed on a pet who is an asymptomatic carrier.

This “bedside” examination is successful in roughly 72 percent of M. canis individuals with active skin lesions. It takes between 5 and 18 days for fluorescence to become noticeable once an infection has begun to take root. It is a fantastic place to start when a vet is worried a dog may have ringworm.

The contamination is allowed to develop on a culture medium (a material for growing microorganisms) in a fungal culture (also known as a DTM—dermatophyte test medium).

Your veterinarian will next use a microscope to examine the growth to see whether it contains one of the fungi that cause ringworm. Positive signals may emerge within 3-5 days, however complete outcomes might take 10-21 days. It is possible to use any hair sample for this test, which eliminates the need for an active skin lesion.

Diagnosing ringworm is now easier than ever thanks to PCR testing. Hairs are also used for this test, which particularly looks for fungus-derived DNA (genetic material). A PCR test yields findings considerably more quickly than a culture test, generally within three to five days.

PCR is a wonderful test for an initial diagnosis of ringworm; however, it is not suited for follow-up testing to determine that the ringworm has been entirely eliminated. This is because PCR testing searches for DNA but cannot identify whether the DNA is from live fungus. Fungal culture testing is typically the suggested follow-up test to check sure the infection is fully gone.

Some questions about Ringworm in Dogs

What is the human-to-dog transmission rate for ringworm?

Unfortunately, ringworm may be very infectious to people. Those at most risk include persons with lower immune systems such as small children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those on chemotherapy or other immunosuppressant medicines.

Will ringworm in a dog go away on its own?

The precise answer is that it would most likely go away on its own after around 9-12 months, depending on the kind of ringworm fungus and the strength of the dog’s immune system. However, throughout this time the dog is infecting the surroundings, and conceivably all the people and other pets in the home might get sick. Most of your dog’s hair would fall out, as ringworm feeds on the hairs and dead skin, making your dog’s skin more prone to wounds and probable secondary infections.

How can I know if my dog has ringworm?

Ringworm may be mistaken for any number of skin conditions. If you find your dog has a crusty lesion or circular region of hair loss with a ring of red skin, or any chronic skin injury that is not clearing, they should be inspected by a veterinarian to assess them for treatment.

Is it possible to treat ringworm in dogs at home?

There are numerous old wives’ tales about using home goods to cure ringworm, but they are not effective and may be dangerous to dogs. Nonprescription drugs are not always as effective as over-the-counter antifungal shampoos.

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