Contrary to what most think, ringworm is a type of fungus similar to athlete's foot. This fungus produces infective seeds known as spores, which are extremely resilient in the environment, and can infect all animals' skin, including dogs. Here, our Columbia veterinarians explain everything you need to know about ringworm in dogs and how to treat it.
What does ringworm look like in dogs?
Ringworm in dogs can be visible - or invisible (asymptomatic) - in a number of ways. In some dogs, ringworm patches look like a grey, scaly patches, while others look like a red lesion. Dogs with long hair, or those who are young or elderly, are more likely to be impacted by ringworm.
If you notice any of the following symptoms of ringworm in your dog, bring them to the vet right away:
- Dry, brittle hair
- Inflamed, red skin rash
- Circular or patchy areas of hair loss
- Scales that look like dandruff
- Scabs or lesions on the skin
- Darkened skin
- Reddened skin
- Inflamed folds of the skin around the claws or nails
What are the treatment options for ringworm?
Ringworm can be easily treated with oral medications as well as a variety of lotions, sprays, and shampoos. If your dog or other pet has a history of skin problems, take them to the vet as soon as you notice any symptoms. Ringworm can cause hair loss, rashes, and other symptoms that appear to be caused by another illness to the untrained eye. There are a range of effective treatments your vet may prescribe for ringworm in your pup.
Depending on the severity of your dog's ringworm condition, your veterinarian will help you choose the best treatment for them. The following are the most common ringworm treatments:
- Topical medication
- Anti-fungal oral medication
- Environmental decontamination (such as deep cleaning a carpet to keep the infection from spreading)
How can I keep ringworm from spreading?
Ringworm is transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal or contact with a contaminated substance. It can linger in its environment - including on drapes and carpets - if not properly cleaned.
Even if there are no obvious symptoms, a pet could be a ringworm carrier. Ringworm spores are tenacious and can survive for a long time in the environment, so confine your affected dog to a single room while you treat them. If you treat your dog but do not remove the virus from your home, he may become ill again.
Soft furniture and carpets should be thoroughly vacuumed and steam cleaned regularly to remove the spores. To clean anything else, disinfectants should be used. Consult your veterinarian about the most effective disinfectants.
How long should I quarantine a dog with ringworm?
Ringworm can last from 6 weeks to 18 months, but it is not as dangerous as other illnesses or diseases. Ringworm typically won't be fatal to your dog or cause permanent damage.
While the therapy is ongoing, the best thing you can do is confine your dog to a separate room in your house and limit contact with your other pets or family members. The dog should ideally be quarantined for 6 weeks during treatment. Although this may appear difficult, it will be infinitely easier and far less expensive than constantly fighting ringworm.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.