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Ringworm is the common name given to a fungal infection of the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and nails. Ringworm infections can occur in humans and in all domesticated species of animals. The name comes from the classical appearance of the round, red, raised ‘ring’ marking the boundary of inflammatory lesions in people infected with the disease. The common name of ringworm is somewhat misleading, in that it is not an infection caused by a worm, and the infected areas are not always ring-shaped. The fungi responsible for ringworm infections belong to a specialized group known as dermatophytes, so the medical name for this disease is dermatophytosis. (Image via Wikimedia Commons / Joel Mills (CC BY-SA 3.0.)

The fungi responsible for ringworm infections belong to a specialized group known as dermatophytes , so the medical name for this disease is dermatophytosis . These dogs can spread ringworm to other animals or people despite having no obvious skin lesions, and are called ‘asymptomatic carriers’ . The amount of environmental contamination is an important factor in the development of a ringworm infection, as is the age of the exposed person or animal. Elderly people, young children, and adults with immune system weaknesses or skin sensitivities are especially susceptible to ringworm infection. Most cases of canine ringworm caused by M. canis will glow with a yellow-green flourescence when the skin and coat are examined in a dark room with a Wood’s lamp. While this technique is acceptable in certain situations as a rapid screening tool in multi-animal facilities, diagnosis made on Wood’s lamp evaluation is not always reliable. The most accurate method for diagnosing ringworm in dogs is by fungal culture of a sample of hair or skin cells. Typically two consecutive negative ringworm cultures indicate your pet has been successfully treated, at which time treatment can be discontinued. Clipping the hair (with its careful disposal) combined with topical antifungal treatment of affected areas of skin may help to reduce environmental contamination. Environmental contamination can be minimized by thorough damp mopping or vacuum cleaning of all rooms or areas that are accessible to your dog; this should be done daily. In multi-animal facilities such as animal shelters or kennels, treatment of ringworm can be extremely challenging and costly, and environmental contamination can be difficult to contain. The ringworm infection will last longer and remain contagious for an extended period of time if only minimal measures are taken or if you are not faithful with the prescribed approach. Ringworm can be transmitted quite easily to humans, especially young children, and it is important to take appropriate steps to minimize exposure to the fungus while the dog is being treated (see Environmental cleaning above).

How can I tell if my dog has ringworm?

Dandruff-like scaling in the depths of the coat..Red lesions on the head, chest, forelegs and the ridge of the back..Scaling, crusting, thickening and reddening of the skin..Circular patches of hair loss (alopecia) on the head, tail or the ridge of the dog or cat’s back.

How do you get rid of ringworm on a dog?

The most common way to treat ringworm in dogs is to use a combination of topical therapy (application of creams, ointments, or shampoos) and systemic therapy (administration of anti-fungal drugs by mouth). In order for treatment to be successful, all environmental contamination must be eliminated.

How can I treat my dogs ringworm without going to the vet?

Three of the most popular and effective natural remedies for treating ringworm are anti-fungal pet shampoo, apple cider vinegar, and tea tree oil. No preparatory steps are required, except an initial visit to the vet to have the ringworm diagnosed. An anti-fungal pet shampoo will help fight and eliminate the infection.

How did my dog get ringworm?

Ringworm in dogs spreads through direct contact with the fungus. This can happen when a dog comes in direct contact with an infected animal or person or touches a contaminated object like a couch, comb, food bowls, bedding, or carpet.

– 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.

It produces infective ‘seeds’ called spores, which are quite hardy and are tricky to get rid of in the environment. In dogs, ringworm has a number of different appearances, most often areas of hair loss with a crusty covering, or (rarely) may be asymptomatic. 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. 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. Yes, ringworm is contagious to people and is caught through touching an infected dog. 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. Soft furnishings and carpets should be vacuumed thoroughly and frequently, or steam cleaned, to remove the spores.

With so many parasites out there, it is tempting to lump ringworm in the same category as hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. Despite its name, however, ringworm is not actually a worm—it is a fungus. This fungal infection is common all over the world and infects almost all species of domestic animals, including dogs, which is why dog owners should know the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for ringworm.

The fungus grows and lives in the outermost layer of skin and in the hair follicles of infected dogs, and occasionally in the nails. This can happen when a dog comes in direct contact with an infected animal or person or touches a contaminated object like a couch, comb, food bowls, bedding, or carpet. Knowing the symptoms of ringworm in dogs can help you catch the disease before it passes to humans or other pets. These lesions may start to heal in the center as they enlarge, creating a patchy appearance, and may become inflamed or scabbed. If you or a family member notices a rash on your body after your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm, contact your primary care physician. This treatment plan depends on the severity of the case, the number of pets in the household, and whether or not there are children or immunocompromised adults in the home. Your veterinarian will probably recommend a topical therapy, like a cream, ointment, and/or medicated shampoo to help treat and control the infection. Topical therapy can take several months to fully eliminate the infection, but does help prevent environmental contamination. Anti-fungal oral medications help fight the infection and, like topical therapy, need to be administered for a minimum of six weeks, but in some cases could take months to take full effect. The spores that live inside the hair follicles remain contagious for months at a time, surviving on couches, grooming tools, bedding, furniture, and clothing. If you can’t contain your dog to hard floors, daily vacuuming and removal of hair from furniture and surfaces can help prevent ringworm from spreading. The best ways to prevent reinfection of ringworm in dogs are to fully cleanse the environment of the home and any tools and bedding that the animals regularly come into contact with, and to follow the instructions of your veterinarian.

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 canis, Trichophyton 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.

Finally, disruptions to the normal protective barrier of the skin, like wounds or a flea infestation, increase a pet’s susceptibility to 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. 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. 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. 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. To decontaminate your home, thoroughly vacuum floors and upholstery and clean hard surfaces with an effective disinfectant like a dilute bleach solution.

Ringworm in Dogs

What is ringworm and what causes it?

There are a number of distinct species of dermatophytes. Some species of dermatophytes are species specific, meaning that they will only infect one species, whereas others can be spread between different species of animals, or from animals to humans. The three most common fungal species that may cause ringworm in dogs are

How is ringworm transmitted?

Ringworm fungi feed on the keratin that is found in the outer layers of the skin, hair, and nails. In dogs, the fungi commonly infect hair follicles, which causes the affected hair shafts to break off at the skin line. This usually results in round patches of hair loss. As the fungus multiplies, the lesions may become irregularly shaped and spread over the dog’s body.In the dog, ringworm lesions usually appear as areas of hair lossSome dogs may have ringworm fungi present in their hair or skin without showing any clinical signs of disease. These dogs can spread ringworm to other animals or people despite having no obvious skin lesions, and are called

How long does it take for the lesions to appear?

The incubation period between exposure to ringworm fungus and the development of ringworm lesions usually ranges from seven to fourteen days; some cases may take up to 21 days before signs of infection develop.

2. Oral treatment

Diagnosis is made in one or more of the following three ways:There are numerous causes for hair loss in dogs. Before making a diagnosis of ringworm, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing to rule out some of these causes.

How long will my dog be contagious?

Infected hairs contain numerous microscopic fungal spores that can be shed into the environment. Infection of other animals and humans can occur, either by direct contact with an infected dog or through contact with fungal spores in a contaminated environment. In addition to minimizing direct contact with an infected dog, it is also important to keep the environment as free of spores as possible. Clipping the hair (with its careful disposal) combined with topical antifungal treatment of affected areas of skin may help to reduce environmental contamination. It is important to remove pet hair from floors or furniture as it may be contaminated with fungal spores.It is also worthwhile to restrict the dog to rooms of the house that are easy to clean. Environmental contamination can be minimized by thorough damp mopping or vacuum cleaning of all rooms or areas that are accessible to your dog; this should be done daily.Fungal spores may be killed with a solution of chlorine bleach and water using the dilution of one pint of chlorine bleach (500 ml) in a gallon of water (4 liters), or a dilution of 1:10 to 1:100, where it is practical to use it.In multi-animal facilities such as animal shelters or kennels, treatment of ringworm can be extremely challenging and costly, and environmental contamination can be difficult to contain.

Will my dog recover from ringworm?

The vast majority of dogs, if treated appropriately, will recover from a ringworm infection. Symptoms may recur if the treatment is discontinued too early or is not aggressive enough (i.e., only topical treatment was used), or if the pet has an underlying disease compromising the immune system. Occasionally symptoms recur because the dog is a carrier of ringworm.

What Is Ringworm?

Ringworm, as the fungus is commonly called, is named for the round, raised, red ring appearance usually seen in human ringworm infections. Ringworm, scientifically known as dermatophytes, is a collection of pathogenic fungi. In dogs, 70 percent of ringworm cases are caused by the fungus Microsporum canis, 20 percent are caused by the fungus Microsporum gypseum, and just 10 percent are caused by Trichophyton mentagrophytes.The fungus grows and lives in the outermost layer of skin and in the hair follicles of infected dogs, and occasionally in the nails. The infection is superficial, and in most cases only affects a few areas of the dog’s body. Puppies, senior dogs, and immunocompromised dogs sometimes suffer from more widespread ringworm infections.

How Is Ringworm in Dogs Spread?

Ringworm in dogs spreads through direct contact with the fungus. This can happen when a dog comes in direct contact with an infected animal or person or touches a contaminated object like a couch, comb, food bowls, bedding, or carpet. The fungal spores responsible for the spread can remain viable for up to 18 months and typically spread through shedding or breaking of infected hairs.

Can Other Animals Get Ringworm?

Ringworm is not a life-threatening disease, but it is very contagious and does require the intervention of a veterinarian. Knowing the symptoms of ringworm in dogs can help you catch the disease before it passes to humans or other pets.In dogs, ringworm usually presents as circular areas of hair loss throughout the body. These lesions may start to heal in the center as they enlarge, creating a patchy appearance, and may become inflamed or scabbed.Ringworm usually does not itch. The affected hair follicles are brittle and break easily, which helps spread the disease throughout your home. In some cases the fungus infects the claws, making them brittle and rough.Contact your veterinarian if your dog experiences any or all of these symptoms:Hair loss, changes in coat appearance, or inflamed skin could be a sign of another condition. Skin problems are associated with many serious underlying conditions in dogs, like Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, a nutrient imbalance, or could simply be symptoms of other skin conditions like allergies, a different parasite, or an infection. Learn more about the causes of dry skin on dogs

Can Humans Get Ringworm?

You might be familiar with ringworm by a different name, like “athlete’s foot.” Ringworm in dogs is not just a problem for your pup. Humans can get Microsporum canis, too, which is another reason why it is important to take this condition seriously. Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of contracting ringworm from dogs, but anyone can contract this unsightly and uncomfortable parasite.In humans, ringworm presents as a roughly circular rash that is often red and itchy. If you or a family member notices a rash on your body after your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm, contact your primary care physician.

Topical Therapy for Ringworm

Your vet will diagnose your dog with ringworm by performing a diagnostic test, as well as a physical exam. He will probably take a sample of hair or skin cells for a fungal culture or examine infected hairs under a special ultraviolet light called a Wood’s lamp.Once ringworm is diagnosed, your vet will discuss a treatment plan for your dog. This treatment plan depends on the severity of the case, the number of pets in the household, and whether or not there are children or immunocompromised adults in the home.Treating ringworm in dogs usually consists of three steps:

Oral Medications for Ringworm

Oral therapy is usually used in conjunction with a topical therapy. Anti-fungal oral medications help fight the infection and, like topical therapy, need to be administered for a minimum of six weeks, but in some cases could take months to take full effect.Your vet will most likely ask you if you have any other pets in the household and might advise that you test and treat them for ringworm, as well, even if they are not currently showing signs of a ringworm infection. It is also very important that owners continue to treat for ringworm for the prescribed period of time. Just because the clinical signs go away doesn’t mean that your dog is no longer contagious, and your vet will most likely want to retest your dog for ringworm before giving you the “all’s clear.”

Environmental Decontamination

The spores that live inside the hair follicles remain contagious for months at a time, surviving on couches, grooming tools, bedding, furniture, and clothing. Cleaning up all this hair is a part of treatment, but as many dog owners know, also a bit of a challenge.Some owners keep their dogs in rooms that are easy to clean during the time they are infected with ringworm. This makes it easier to eliminate stray hairs and to mop with a disinfectant recommended by your veterinarian. If you can’t contain your dog to hard floors, daily vacuuming and removal of hair from furniture and surfaces can help prevent ringworm from spreading.

How Do Dogs Get Ringworm?

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

Diagnosis

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.

Ringworm Treatment for 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

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.