Although your dog having ringworm doesn't seem too harmful initially, it can lead to bigger problems if left untreated. Our Rochester vets explain everything a dog owner should know about ringworm including identifying and treating it.
What is ringworm in dogs?
Surprisingly, ringworm is not in the same category as hookworm, roundworm, or tapeworm. Not actually a worm at all, this fungus leaves circular or semi-circular bald spots and rashes on the skin.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that gets its name from the ring-like/worm-like shape seen on raised (due to swelling) and red skin rashes.
What does a ringworm look like on a dog?
Ringworm characteristically appears in a circular or ring-shaped pattern on the skin, usually causing the skin to turn red, lose hair, and swell up.
Ringworm in your dog may not present itself in such a noticeable manner, so you should keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Inflamed, red skin rash
- Scales that look like dandruff
- Itchiness (pruritus)
- Dry, brittle hair with hair follicles that break easily
- Circular or patchy areas of hair loss (alopecia)
- Darkened skin (hyperpigmentation)
- Reddened skin (erythema)
- Scabs or raised nodular lesions on the skin
- Inflamed folds of the skin around the claws, or bordering the nails
If you notice any combination of these symptoms in your pup, contact a vet immediately.
How does a dog get ringworm?
Ringworm can be spread through direct contact with an infected animal or from an object that has been contaminated such as towels, food or water bowls, couches, or carpet. The fungus spores can survive for months, which means ringworm can be spread through the fur that your dog has already shed. The fungus can also remain on surfaces or get trapped in the fibers of carpets, drapes, linens, etc. in your home if they’re not cleaned.
Dogs often get this fungal infection from playing outdoors as some forms of the fungus can live freely in the soil. Your dog's immune system may be able to fight the fungus off, or it may turn into a localized or more widespread skin infection, depending on many factors including your pet’s overall health, the species of fungus, part of the body affected, the dog’s age, etc.
Sometimes a pet can be a ringworm carrier without showing any visible symptoms. If your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm, it is a good idea to have your other pets checked by a veterinarian to be safe. You should also alert any fellow dog owners and dog-walking buddies that your dog has been infected and is being treated and that they should watch for signs of ringworm in their pets.
How is ringworm treated?
If your pet is diagnosed with ringworm, there are a variety of good treatments available. Your vet will help you choose the solution best suited for your dog depending on the severity of their ringworm problem.
The treatment process is fairly straightforward with few complications if the fungus is treated in a timely fashion.
Your vet will likely prescribe your pup a topical medication to apply to the skin or an anti-fungal medication that can be taken orally.
It may also be recommended that you get an environmental decontamination of your house to eliminate any contaminated elements.
Additionally, your vet may recommend shaving the fur around the more infected areas of your dog.
Do not assume your dog is cured because they stop showing symptoms. Continue with the treatment until your dog has been deemed cured by your vet.
How long to quarantine a dog with ringworm?
If aggressive treatment is used, infected pets are contagious for about three weeks. If only minimal measures are taken or if you do not follow the prescribed treatment plan, the ringworm infection will last longer and remain contagious for a longer period of time. During this time, it is best to limit your exposure to other dogs or cats as well as your family members. Two consecutive negative fungal cultures will indicate that your dog has been successfully treated.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.