Does your dog have ringworm? Just the word alone is enough to make a pet owner shudder. But despite the name, ringworm is not actually a worm. It is an infection caused by fungi.
Dog ringworm is a pesky problem. Not only can it irritate your dog’s skin and cause hair loss, but it can also spread to humans.
Is ringworm contagious? Very, which is why it is such a frustrating disease. But there are steps all dog owners can take to prevent an infection. Let’s review what ringworm is, how it’s caused, and how to prevent ringworm in dogs.
What Is Dog Ringworm?
Dog ringworm, which is also known as dermatophytes, is a collection of pathogenic fungi. The fungi grow in the hair follicles and the outermost layer of skin of the infected dog. The infection is superficial, and therefore only affects the dog’s skin and coat.
Different types of fungi can cause ringworm in dogs. The most common are:
- Microsporum canis (70% of all dog ringworm cases)
- Microsporum gypseum (20% of all dog ringworm cases)
- Trichophyton mentagrophytes (10% of all dog ringworm cases)
Ringworm is not a life-threatening condition, but it is very contagious and requires veterinarian care.
Dog Ringworm Symptoms
Ringworm infiltrates hair follicles to create hair loss. Most dogs with ringworm develop bare patches of skin on their bodies. The ringworm also creates lesions that can become inflamed or scabbed.
Pet owners need to be on the lookout for dog ringworm symptoms. Early detection makes the infection easier to treat. Signs of ringworm in dogs include:
- Scabby and inflamed skin
- Dry and brittle hair
- Circular areas of hair loss
- Brittle claws (only occurs if fungi infect the paws)
If you notice these symptoms, contact your local veterinarian for assistance. Changes in a dog’s coat and skin infections can be signs of other canine diseases, like Cushing’s disease or nutritional deficiencies. It’s best to get a professional diagnosis so you can give Fido the right treatment.
Dog Ringworm Treatment
A veterinarian examines dogs with ringworm through a physical exam. The vet may take hair or skin samples to evaluate under a Wood’s lamp. A Wood’s lamp uses ultraviolet light to detect fungi.
If diagnosed with ringworm, the veterinarian may recommend long-haired dogs get clipped to stop the fungi from spreading. The vet will start by using topical creams or medicated shampoos to control the infection.
In addition to topical treatments, antifungal oral medications are also given to dogs with ringworm to fight off the infection. Both topical therapy and oral medications must be given to the infected dog for a minimum of six weeks. Stopping treatments too early allows the fungi to return and continue spreading to other pets and humans.
How Does Ringworm Spread?
Ringworm is not deadly, but it is highly contagious.
Like all fungi, ringworm spreads through spores. When a dog comes into direct contact with an infected person, animal, or object, the spores attach themselves to the dog. The fungi spread by infiltrating hair follicles. When the hair breaks or naturally sheds, the spores can travel to new hosts.
Can dogs spread ringworm to humans? Absolutely. An estimated 50% of people who have contact with an infected animal develop a ringworm infection. Dogs can contract ringworm from anything and anyone. It could be another pet, a human, or an object. Once the dog has an infection, he can easily spread it to others. When another pet or a human comes in contact with contaminated objects like couches, food bowls, bedding, and clothing, they can contract an infection.
For example, let’s say your dog sleeps with you in bed. When the dog hops into bed, he leaves behind fungal spores responsible for ringworm. When you climb into bed, you expose yourself to infection. And once you have ringworm, you can easily spread it to others.
How Long Is Ringworm Contagious?
What makes ringworm so contagious? The longevity of the fungal spores combined with how it spreads. Hair follicles carrying fungal spores are contagious for up to 18 months. That means for 18 months, hair follicles can contaminate objects and spread ringworm to others.
If your dog is diagnosed with ringworm, you and any others who live in your house may have it as well. Anyone can contract the fungal disease, but young children, the elderly, and those with autoimmune disorders have the highest risk.
Can You Prevent Ringworm From Spreading?
Preventing the spread of ringworm requires decontaminating your environment. Fungal spores live inside hair follicles. If you are worried about a ringworm outbreak, try:
- Vacuuming dog hair from furniture and carpets once per day
- Using diluted bleach mixtures to clean surfaces twice a week
- Washing pet bedding with hot water once a week
- Keeping up with regular pet grooming and bathing to reduce shedding
Keep an eye on your dog to prevent ringworm contractions. Do not let Fido dig around rodent holes, as they are common ringworm carriers. Immediately wash your dog if he comes into contact with a feral animal or an unfamiliar dog at the dog park.
Pet owners of dogs with higher risks of developing ringworm may need to be especially cautious. This includes young puppies, older dogs, and canines with compromised immune systems or skin conditions. Certain breeds, including Yorkies and Jack Russell terriers, are more prone to contracting ringworm than others.
Keeping your canine in tip-top shape plays a key role in preventing a ringworm infection. Stay on top of wellness visits by getting your dog a checkup twice a year. Feed your pooch a nutrient-rich diet that fuels his immune system. The healthier the dog, the easier it is to treat any type of fungal infection.
Protect Your Pup From Unhealthy Skin
Dog ringworm is very contagious and can quickly infect an entire household. But by familiarizing yourself with the common signs of ringworm in dogs, you can potentially catch a ringworm crisis before it starts.
Strong skin is the foundation of a healthy dog. Not only can resilient skin help with seasonal and occasional allergies, but it can also lead to better immune health and reduced excessive occasional shedding.
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