Because of its name, some may think that ringworm belongs to the same category as tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. However, ringworm is not a worm/parasite, contrary to what the name may suggest. So what is it and how does it affect dogs in particular?
Scientifically known as dermatophytes, ringworm is a common fungal infection that may affect most if not all species of domestic animals (including dogs) and humans alike. According to research, it is characterized by its round, red, and raised ring-like appearance, hence its name, although the name can be misleading because not all ringworms are shaped like a ring.
In dogs, the fungus lives on their skin’s outer layer, hair follicles, and nails. Luckily, It is a superficial infection that mostly doesn’t cause any serious complications. Do note that some dogs such as puppies, immunocompromised dogs, and senior dogs may experience a more widespread ringworm infection.
Nonetheless, because ringworm is highly contagious, being aware of the causes, symptoms, and treatment options would help dog owners in addressing this infection.
Dog Hotspot vs Ringworm
While some may confuse one with the other, hotspots and ringworms are distinct from each other, with different appearances and remedies.
Hotspots are big, moist, and reddish. In addition to this, you may notice hair loss around it. Among the possible underlying causes of this condition are skin infections, self-trauma, parasites, or allergies. Its triggers may include licking, chewing on the area affected, and scratching because of the intense itchiness and pain that it may bring.
On the other hand, like what was mentioned above, ringworm is a fungal infection. It is often characterized by patches of hair loss with a raised, reddish, dry, flaky, and circular and raised ring-like appearance on the skin. This is contagious (both to animals and humans), so if you suspect your dog of having ringworm, it’s best to contact your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of Dog Ringworm
In dogs, ringworm spreads when there is direct contact with the fungus. This may occur when a dog comes into direct contact with an animal or human that is infected, or when they come into contact with contaminated surfaces.
The spores of the fungus that is contagious can live and stay dormant for up to 18 months in combs, carpets, food bowls, furniture, beddings, couch, toys, and different surfaces in the environment. However, contact with the fungus may not always result in being infected. It also depends on the level of contamination in the environment as well as the age of your dog.
Dog Ringworm Symptoms
While ringworm isn’t life-threatening, it is highly contagious and needs treatment. Getting to know these symptoms can help you catch the infection early on so that other pets and humans may not catch the infection.
In dogs, ringworm normally presents itself as patches of circular hair loss around their body. In addition to this, it usually has a raised ring-like formation surrounding the circular hair loss. The lesions may begin to heal in the middle as it enlarges, showing a patchy, scabbed, or inflamed appearance.
Normally, ringworm isn’t itchy. The hair follicles that are affected may break or become easily brittle, and this allows the disease to spread around your home. There are cases when the fungus also affects your dog’s claws, causing them to be rough and brittle.
If your dog exhibits any of these dog ringworm symptoms, contact your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
- Circular patches of hair loss;
- Inflamed and scabby skin;
- Brittle or dry hair;
- Claws that are rough or brittle.
Diagnosis & Treatment
To diagnose if your dog has ringworm, your vet will likely perform a physical exam as well as a diagnostic test. It’s probable for them to take a sample of your dog’s skin cells or a strand of their hair to perform a fungal culture or check infected hairs with the help of ultraviolet light.
Upon confirmation that your dog has ringworm, your vet will let you know the treatment options available. Choosing the right treatment will depend on how severe your dog’s case is, how many pets you have in the same home and if there are babies/kids or immunocompromised adults living together with your dog.
The following ways of treating ringworm include:
An ointment, cream, or medicated shampoo may be suggested by the vet to help treat your dog’s ringworm infection. With topical therapy, it may take several months before the infection is eliminated, but it can help prevent contamination in the environment.
Most often, oral therapy is used alongside topical therapy. Anti-fungal medications that are taken orally help in fighting the infection. It may need to be given for a minimum of 6 weeks but there are some cases that may take months.
Decontamination of the Environment
For months, the spores living inside your dog’s hair follicles may remain contagious and may stay dormant on surfaces such as beddings, couches, furniture, clothing, and the like. Part of decontaminating the environment is to clean up the hair that may be lying around the house.
Some choose to let their dog stay in a room that is easier to clean while they have the infection. Removing hair from furniture, vacuuming, mopping, and disinfecting may help.
Having a pet camera such as the Petcube cam may also help us keep track of where our dog likes to stay around the house. That way, we’ll know which areas need more cleaning and disinfecting.
When it comes to dog infections and diseases, it would be great for us dog owners to be able to talk to people who are knowledgeable about it and know what we can do about it. Thankfully, Petcube offers an Online Vet service that allows subscribers to chat and call licensed vets anytime and anywhere.
Not only is it convenient, but the service allows you to have a more in-depth understanding of your pet since you are able to talk with licensed vets about anything concerning your pet’s health and well-being.
How long to quarantine dog with ringworm?
If your dog is diagnosed with ringworm, it would be best to quarantine them in a separate room and limit their contact with others while their therapy is still ongoing. While it may be challenging, it is recommended to quarantine your dog for about 6 weeks while they are being given therapy and medications. At the same time, regular cleaning and disinfecting may help in preventing the spread and reinfection.
Can I get ringworm from my dog?
Ringworm is not only contagious to dogs, humans can get infected too. Because of this, it is important to take the condition seriously. Anyone can get infected, but young children, immunocompromised adults, and the elderly have an increased risk of getting infected.
How often to bathe a dog with ringworm?
If you will be using a medicated shampoo as suggested by your vet, you might have to bathe your dog every couple of days until the infection has been eliminated. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian as to what topical treatments you’ll be giving to make sure that it is safe and effective for your dog.