Ringworm in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

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A little dog with a sore nose from ringworm in dogs

What Is Ringworm?

The fungus is ringworm because of the circular, raised; red ring-like appearance exhibited in human ringworm infections. Ringworm is a group of pathogenic fungus known technically as dermatophytes. In dogs, the fungus Microsporum canis causes 70% of ringworm infections, Microsporum gypseum causes 20%, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes cause just 10%.

The fungus develops and thrives in the outermost layer of skin, hair follicles, and even in the nails of afflicted dogs. The illness is superficial, affecting just a few parts of the dog’s body in most instances. Ringworm infections may be more prevalent in puppies, older dogs, and immunocompromised canines. Ringworm in dogs

How Do Dogs Get Ringworm?

Dogs may develop ringworm in a variety of ways. Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes are the most prevalent fungus found in dogs. The prevalence of these and other ringworm-causing species vary depending on your geographic area. Dogs often acquire ringworm via direct contact with infected animals or humans, some of whom may have little or no clinical symptoms of the condition. The fungus that causes ringworm may also be transferred via contaminated bedding, brushes, clippers, and cages. Some ringworm species dwell in the soil, and dogs may get ill after encountering the dirt that contains these organisms.

Close up pictures of ringworm in dogs
Close up pictures of ringworm in dogs

Anything that reduces the body’s capacity to generate an efficient immune response (such as young age, immunocompromising conditions, or immunosuppressive medicines) increases your dog’s chances of contracting ringworm, as well as the risk of a more severe infection. Infection risk is also grown in environments where animals are highly crowded (for example, in an animal shelter or kennel) or when inadequate nutrition, poor management techniques, and a lack of a proper quarantine time exist. Finally, changes to the skin’s natural protective barrier, such as wounds or flea infestations, make a pet more susceptible to ringworm.

How Is Ringworm in Dogs Spread?

Ringworm is spread to dogs by direct contact with the fungus. A dog may get infected if they come into direct contact with an infected animal or person or touch a contaminated item such as a couch, comb, food bowls, bedding, or carpet. The infection-causing spores may persist for 18 months and are transferred by dirty hairs shedding or breaking.

 What Does Ringworm Look Like?

The keratin present in the outer layers of the skin, hair, and nails is what ringworm fungus feed on. The fungus typically infects hair follicles in dogs, causing hair shafts to break off at the skin’s surface. It frequently results in circular hair loss patches. The sores may grow oddly formed and spread across the dog’s body as the fungus multiplies.

“The fungus typically infects hair follicles in dogs, causing damaged hair shafts to break off at the skin line, resulting in circular areas of hair loss ” says the author.

Cute street dog recovered from ringworm
Cute street dog recovered from ringworm

Ringworm lesions in dogs commonly manifest themselves as circular regions of hair loss (alopecia). As the core portion of these circular lesions heals, hair may begin to sprout in the lesion. The hair shafts that are impacted are brittle and readily broken. These lesions usually are not irritating, but they may become inflamed and form a scabby surface if they get irritated. The majority of the time, alopecia affects multiple areas of the body. Onychomycosis, a fungus that infects the nails, can happen from time to time. The claws become harsh, brittle, and shattered as a result of this.

Ringworm fungus may be found in the hair or skin of some dogs that exhibit no clinical indications of the condition. Asymptomatic carriers are canines that may transfer ringworm to other animals or humans without visible skin lesions. Asymptomatic carriers are particularly hazardous in multi-species contexts like animal shelters or kennels because they may transmit the ringworm fungus to many other animals and humans while presenting no clinical indications.

Can Other Animals Get Ringworm?

Ringworm may affect cats as well, and the fungus that causes most instances of ringworm in dogs, Microsporum canis, also causes 98 percent of ringworm in cats. Because many dog owners also own cats, the possibility of the fungus spreading from cats to dogs and dogs to cats is rather significant.

Most domestic animals, including cattle, may have ringworm, so speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of ringworm transmitting between your pets and other animals.

Can Humans Get Ringworm?

Ringworm may be known by a different term, such as “athlete’s foot.” Ringworm is a problem in dogs that affects more than just your dog. Humans may also get Microsporum canis, which is why it’s so vital to treat this infection seriously. Ringworm is more common in young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, but anybody may catch this unattractive and painful parasite from dogs.

Ringworm causes a red, itchy rash that is roughly circular in people. If you or a family member develops a rash after your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm, see your primary care physician.

Dermatological allergic wound in a dog
Dermatological allergic wound in a dog

Symptoms of Ringworm in Dogs

Ringworm is not an acute condition, but it is very infectious and needs the assistance of a veterinarian. Knowing the signs of ringworm in dogs might assist you in detecting the infection before it spreads to people or other pets.

In dogs, ringworm appears as circular areas of hair loss all over the body. The lesions may begin to heal in the center, resulting in a patchwork appearance, and they may become inflammatory or scabbed as they progress.

Ringworm does not usually itch. The damaged hair follicles are fragile and quickly break, which aids in transmitting the illness throughout your house. The fungus affects the claws in certain instances, making them brittle and harsh.

If your furry friend shows any or all of the following symptoms, please get in touch with your veterinarian:

  • Hair loss in circular regions
  • Brittle, dry hair
  • Inflamed, scabby skin
  • Claws with rough, fragile edges

Hair loss, changes in coat appearance, or irritated skin might all be symptoms of more severe disease. Skin issues in dogs may be signs of significant underlying disorders such as Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, vitamin imbalances, or indicators of other skin conditions such as allergies, a different parasite, or an infection. Learn more about the causes of dry dog skin.

How is a ringworm infection diagnosed?

Diagnosis is completed in one or more of the three ways listed below:

  • The typical ‘ringworm’ lesions on the skin are identified. This method is inefficient and may result in a misdiagnosis. Confirming the existence of ringworm fungus typically requires further diagnostic testing.
  • Most instances of canine ringworm caused by M. canis will glow with a yellow-green fluorescence when viewed in a dark environment with a Wood’s light. However, under a Wood’s lamp, not all instances of M. canis will fluoresce, and neither T. mentagrophytes nor M. gypseum will fluoresce. Some skin ointments and other materials fluoresce as well, which can cause a false-positive result. While this technique can be used as a quick screening tool in multi-animal facilities in some situations, the diagnosis based on Wood’s lamp evaluation is not always reliable.
  • A culture of hair or skin cells is the most accurate method for diagnosing ringworm in dogs. A positive culture can sometimes be completed within a few days, but the fungal spores can be slow to grow in some cases, and culture results can take up to four weeks. As a result, a suspected sample cannot be ruled out for at least a month.

A variety of factors can cause alopecia in dogs. Your veterinarian may recommend additional testing to rule out some of these causes before making a ringworm diagnosis.

Microscopic Examination

Your veterinarian may want to look for tiny spores in some of your hairs. It entails plucking hairs and examining them under a microscope. Ringworm is proven if spores can be detected on damaged hairs; however, since spores are difficult to view, particularly in darker hair, many vets ignore this step.

Fungal Culture

Some hairs and skin scales are put on a culture medium to develop one of the ringworm fungi. This test has the benefit of confirming ringworm and determining which type of fungus is present. Knowing the fungus’s identity may aid in determining the source of the infection. The disadvantage is that fungi take at least ten days to grow out. False-negative cultures, unfortunately, are not uncommon.

French bulldog with dermatological problems caused by allergies skin disease
French bulldog with dermatological problems caused by allergies skin disease

A visible skin lesion is not required for fungal culture. A pet with no visible lesions can be combed all over, and the removed fur and skin can be cultured. Carrier animals are usually cats who live in a household with several other cats.

A particular growth media known as dermatophyte test medium is usually used to identify ringworm fungus from other fungi. Ringworm fungus often generates a fluffy white colony that quickly turns the orange growth medium crimson. Material may be taken and inspected under a microscope for ringworm spores when the colony has reached maturity.

PCR Analysis

The most recent diagnostic approach includes looking for dermatophyte fungal DNA in hair. The advantage is that it is considerably quicker than culture but can still confirm the infection and identify the type of ringworm fungus involved. It makes PCR testing an excellent technique to establish an initial diagnosis of ringworm, but it might be challenging to determine the end of therapy. The disadvantage of PCR testing is that it only detects fungal DNA and not live viable fungi. We may conclude that the fungus is causing illness if fungal DNA is found on a skin lesion when the pet is initially diagnosed. However, after treatment, the fungus is killed or damaged to the point of being harmless, but its DNA remains, resulting in a positive PCR test. As a result, while PCR is best for detecting fungus in an untreated patient, culture is probably best for determining when treatment can be stopped.


Sometimes the lesions on the body parts are so unusual that a skin biopsy is required to make a diagnosis. Fungal spores are pretty visible in these samples, and the diagnosis can be ruled in or out. Depending on the results of preliminary tests, your veterinarian may start ringworm treatment right away or delay it until more definitive results are available.

How To Treat Ringworm in Dogs

Your veterinarian will identify ringworm in your dog using a diagnostic test as well as a physical exam. He’ll most likely collect a sample of hair or skin cells for a fungal culture or analyze infected hairs with a Wood’s lamp, a kind of ultraviolet light.

Cut around the wound to treat the site of the disease ringworm in Dogs
Cut around the wound to treat the site of the disease ringworm in Dogs

Ringworm treatment in dogs generally consists of three steps:

  • Topical treatment
  • Medications are taken orally
  • Decontamination of the environment

Topical Therapy for Ringworm

To treat and manage the infection, your veterinarian will most likely suggest topical medication, such as a lotion, ointment, or medicated shampoo. Your veterinarian may also advise you to trim long-haired pets and shave the hair from afflicted regions to expedite therapy. It may take many months for the topical medication to eradicate the illness, but it does help avoid environmental contamination.

Ringworm Medications Taken Orally

Oral treatment is generally combined with topical therapy. Antifungal oral drugs aid in the battle against infection and, like topical treatment, must be used for at least six weeks, but in rare circumstances, it may take months to have full effect.

Your veterinarian will almost certainly inquire whether you have any other pets in the home and may urge you to test and treat them for ringworm as well, even if they are not presently displaying indications of fungal infection. It is also critical that owners continue to treat ringworm for the specified amount of time. The absence of clinical signs does not show that your dog is no longer infectious, and your vet will almost certainly want to check your dog for ringworm before giving you the “all clear”.

Dog's nose ringworm treatment- Applying cream on ringworm lesions
Dog’s nose ringworm treatment- Applying cream on ringworm lesions

In the vast majority of instances of ringworm, successful therapy will include the use of antifungal medicine taken orally. Grifofulvin is the most often used medicine for this purpose, although newer treatments like itraconazole or terbinafine (Lamasil) are becoming more popular and are typically favored since they have fewer adverse effects. Individual dogs respond differently to treatment, and if treatment is discontinued too soon, the sickness may reoccur. Treatment usually lasts a minimum of six weeks, but in certain situations, considerably longer is necessary.

Two consecutive negative ringworm cultures usually indicate that your dog has been effectively treated, and therapy may be stopped at that point.

You should separate sick and uninfected dogs if you have more than one and only treat the afflicted ones. In some instances, treating all of the pets may be beneficial.

Decontamination of the environment

For months at a time, the spores that dwell within hair follicles stay infectious, thriving on sofas, grooming products, bedding, furniture, and clothes. Cleaning up all of this hair is part of the therapy, but it may be difficult, as many dog owners know.

During the period their dogs are sick with ringworm, some owners keep them in easy-to-clean areas. This makes it simple to remove stray hairs and mop with a disinfectant recommended by your veterinarian. Daily cleaning and hair removal from furniture and surfaces may help prevent ringworm if you can’t keep your dog off the hard flooring.

When to See a Veterinarian

If you believe your dog has ringworm, always visit your veterinarian. Ringworm may be confused with other skin conditions, including painful tick bites or Lyme disease. Your veterinarian will help you identify the root of the problem and advise you on how to treat your pet effectively.

Veterinarian exploring a puppy with a wood lamp in a veterinary clinic
Veterinarian exploring a puppy with a wood lamp in a veterinary clinic

If you decide to take care of your dog’s ringworm on your own, contact a veterinarian if the infection appears to be spreading or worsening so that oral antifungal medication can be prescribed. The sooner you begin ringworm treatment under the supervision of a veterinarian, the less likely you are to contract ringworm, and the sooner your pet will be cured.

Will Ringworm go Away by Itself?

Several studies have shown that this fungal infection will ultimately go away on its own. This usually takes four months, which is a long time in a household context for regular contamination. It is thought that actively treating the illness is preferable to just waiting for it to go gone while environmental pollution worsens.

What to Change if the occurrence Seems to go on forever (as in more than 100 Days)

The epidemic is often gone after a few months of medicine and dipping. If the epidemic is continuing strong, it’s essential to look for cuts that need to be made and gaps in the programme that need to be filled:

  • If you’re utilizing visible lesions as a therapy endpoint, you should switch to fungal culture as the gold standard.
  • Dipping is time-consuming; thus, most individuals don’t do it twice a week as recommended. If the illness is resistant to treatment, dipping should be done twice a week.
  • The surroundings must be carefully decontaminated, which involves the identification of infected creatures and their confinement. Infected pets that are not contained will pollute the environment and become infected again.
  • Consider if the pet’s immune system is compromised. If the pet develops a secondary illness, it must be managed in order for the creature to heal.
  • The bioavailability of itraconazole compounded from bulk products differs from itraconazole compounded from prescription medication. In other words, it doesn’t operate as well as it should. Changing to terbinafine or a compounded prescription medication might make a major effect.
  • Finally, keep in mind that if solely imagery was used to make the diagnosis, the diagnosis might be incorrect. The tests mentioned above are critical in the diagnosis of dermatophytosis. A biopsy may be required.

If you get infected, see your doctor right away for treatment. Even if the virus comes from a pet, veterinarians cannot provide advice for human pet infection. Ringworm in dog

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