Ringworm in Dogs & Puppies
Despite its name, ringworm isn’t caused by a wriggly worm, but several different species of fungi. Ringworm, or dermatophytosis, is an infection of the skin’s top layers, including the fur. The disease gets its name from the raised, ring-shaped lesions that appear on the skin. However, some dogs with ringworm have no visible symptoms, while others lose fur in large patches. A fairly common condition, it’s important to recognize these symptoms and know how to treat ringworm in dogs.
Hair loss (alopecia) is the primary symptom of ringworm in dogs, often in a circular ring pattern. The fungus’ unique markings occur when the lesion begins to heal in the center, yet the edges still creep outwards. Despite what you might think, excessive itching is not a sign of ringworm, although secondary infections can occur if scratching breaks the scabs that form.
Ringworm symptoms in dogs and puppies include:
- Inflamed or scabby skin
- Circular areas of hair loss anywhere on the body
- Dry and brittle fur
- Rough, brittle claws
In its early stages, ringworm isn’t particularly itchy or painful, so your dog may be completely unaware of these symptoms. As the fungus progresses, lesions and pustules may occur, which can exacerbate irritation and inflammation. No matter how developed the fungus is, it’s still contagious and should be treated quickly.
Only a veterinarian can officially diagnose ringworm on dogs, which is often mistaken for other skin diseases. During a physical exam – with gloves, of course – the vet may take a skin or hair sample to culture or examine in the lab. A special ultraviolet lamp will be used during your pet’s exam; called a Wood’s lamp, it lights up the fungus’ excretions a yellowy-green.
Depending on how severe the case, there are multiple courses of treatment for ringworm in dogs. Ointments can be used in mild cases or in addition to oral medications and anti-fungal shampoos. If your vet prescribes drugs, it’s very important to finish the entire bottle. Keep the infected dog separate from any other pets in the household – no shared toys, crates, beds or bowls. Consider having all your animals checked out by a vet, just in case the fungus has already spread.
The first thing to do after you start your dog’s ringworm treatment is to clean all the surfaces in your home (or hire someone to do it). Regular cleaning can also prevent the fungus from infecting pets in the first place. As we mentioned before, ringworm is very stubborn and can survive up to 18 months on or in objects including dust, ventilation ducts, heating and air filters, carpets, curtains and floors. The fungus is also tougher than most household cleaners, requiring a 10-percent bleach solution or a specialized anti-fungal cleaning product to destroy it. Use bleach to wash all items an infected dog has come into contact with, including bedding, bowls, toys and dog clothes.
According to veterinarian Dr. Lisa Miller, cramped conditions – like those in shelters – are the perfect incubator for ringworm in dogs. “Ringworm occurs more readily in the kind of overcrowded, humid, or poorly ventilated environment common to many shelters,” Dr. Miller says in a resource provided by the Humane Society of the United States. “Excessive bathing or moisture on the skin — which is often caused by routine cage cleaning — can predispose cats to infection.” Dogs with preexisting skin conditions are more likely to contract ringworm through existing cuts in the skin, as are senior pets who fail to groom themselves thoroughly and remove fungus spores.
Can I Get Ringworm From My Dog?
Just as dogs can get ringworm from other dogs, ringworm is also highly contagious between dogs and humans. You can contract ringworm from them, and they can get it from you. This is why it’s exceedingly important quickly treat any affected dog or person in your home. You should also quarantine and carefully handle your pet until the ringworm has been completely eradicated.
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