Ringworm In Dogs

Ringworm in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Dr. Nicole Bertolini

Sep 28, 2023

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A common misconception is that ringworm is truly a worm, however, ringworm is actually a fungal infection that creates a raised circular lesion within the skin. In dogs, this infection can affect the skin, hair follicles, and sometimes the nails. This disease can be alarming for pet owners as it’s contagious to pets and humans. Knowing its causes, symptoms, and available treatments is essential for avoiding a hairy situation for your furry companions and family.

Symptoms of Ringworm in Dogs: Recognizing the Signs

Ringworm often manifests itself in distinct ways. Typically, affected dogs might show circular patches of hair loss. The skin within the circular area may appear red, scaly, and sometimes inflamed. Some dogs might scratch or lick the affected areas, though not all dogs will display discomfort. Nails infected by the fungus can become distorted.

Spread Across the Body

While these lesions frequently appear on a dog’s head, ears, limbs and paws, they can manifest anywhere on the body. If you notice any unusual spots or hair loss on your pet, it’s always best to seek a veterinarian’s advice promptly.

Causes of Ringworm in Dogs

The Culprit Fungi

Three types of fungi are commonly responsible for ringworm infections in dogs: Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Among these, Microsporum canis is the most prevalent. These fungi thrive in hair follicles and the superficial layer of the skin.

How Dogs Get Infected

Dogs can contract ringworm in several ways. Coming into direct contact with an infected animal is the most common way. However, they can also get it from a contaminated environment, such as grooming equipment, brushes, bedding, and furniture. Young dogs, free-roaming animals, hunting dogs, and warm environments are risk factors. Diseases is more common in animals under stress or overcrowded environments like shelters or animal hoarding cases. The spores of the ringworm fungus are quite resilient and can live in the environment for more than a year, waiting for a host.

Treating Ringworm in Dogs

Veterinary Diagnosis

If you suspect your dog might have ringworm, your first step should always be to visit a veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis. A Wood’s lamp is used to find M canis-infected hairs. These hairs can be used for a direct examination or fungal culture. Positive hairs glow/ fluoresce as a green color. These hairs are then collected for direct examination via plucking or scraping of material onto a drop of mineral oil. Fluorescence is less common as animals recover and absence of fluorescence does not mean that the pet is not infected with ringworm. 

Available Treatments

Treatment can be topical, systemic, or a combination of both. Topical treatments involve medicated shampoos, wipes, and creams applied directly to the affected areas. Systemic treatments, on the other hand, involve antifungal medications given orally. The type and duration of treatment will depend on the severity of the infection.

Preventing Spread

While your dog is undergoing treatment, it’s crucial to minimize the risk of the infection spreading. This means regularly cleaning and disinfecting your home, isolating your pet from other animals, and practicing good hand hygiene after touching your pet.

Protecting Your Pet and Home

Awareness and early detection are the first lines of defense against ringworm. Regularly inspect your dog for any signs of skin issues, especially if they frequently interact with other animals or play in communal spaces. If you’re introducing a new pet to your home, it’s a good practice to have them checked by a veterinarian, ensuring they’re not bringing any unwanted guests.

Contact VEG if Your Dog Has Ringworm

At the Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG), we’re dedicated to ensuring that pet owners are well-informed about potential health issues like ringworm. If you notice any symptoms or have concerns about your dog’s health, don’t hesitate to get in touch.