When you hear of ring worm, your mind probably also runs to tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. Ringworm is actually a misnomer because it is not a warm, it is a fungal infection. It is a very common fungal infection, infecting globally, every species of domestic animal. As it is an infection that infects dogs, dog owners will do themselves some good knowing the symptoms and causes of ringworm, and knowing the treatment options. You know about this here.
It is named ‘ringworm’ because of its raised, round and red appearance in infected humans. In infected dogs, it lives and grows in the skin’s outermost layer and in hair follicles; occasionally, it can be found within the nails. It is a superficial infection which usually affects just the body. Widespread infections are usually suffered by seniors, puppies and those with compromised immunity.
Ringworm Spread in Dogs
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In dogs, ringworm spreads through direct fungal contact. By contact, it means that the pet has touched infected objects like comb, couch, beddings, food bowls or carpet; or infected people or other animals. The spores created by this fungus can stay viable for as long as 18 months. It typically spreads by breaking off and shedding infected hairs.
Symptoms in Dogs
Getting to know the symptoms is a major step in preventing its passage to other pets as well as humans. It is not life-threatening. However, it is a very contagious pathogen that will require your veterinarian’s intervention. It presents in dogs as circular zones of hair loss that can be found all over the body. They may become scabbed or inflamed as the lesions, while enlarging, begin to heal from the center and in the process creates a patchy look.
The fungus usually does not cause itching. The brittleness of the infected hair follicles cause them to break off easily and this is the reason for the easy spread of ringworm in your home. When the claws are infected, they become rough and brittle. Read more here: https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_dg_dermatophytosis
You will have need to see a veterinarian if you observe any of these in your pet:
- Hair loss in restricted circular areas
- Dry and brittle hair
- Inflamed and scabby skin
- Brittle and rough claws
Not every hair loss, change in the coat’s appearance or inflamed skin is a sign of ring worm. These could be indicative of other underlying conditions, as skin problems in dogs have been associated with a number of severe underlying conditions. Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease and nutrients’ imbalance are few examples of some of these underlying conditions. A different parasite or allergies can also provoke the same symptoms.
A diagnostic test and a physical examination are what is required to diagnose your canine friend with ringworm. This is your vet’s call, but you can read up more about it here https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/ringworm-in-dogs. Hair samples or skin cells are likely going to be taken for fungal culture. On the other hand, infected hairs can be inspected under Wood’s lamp, which is an ultraviolet light specially made for this kind of examination.
In the event that ringworm is diagnosed, a treatment plan will be discussed with you. The plan will be dependent on how severe the case is, number of household pets and whether there are children or adults with compromised immunity.
Three steps will be considered in the treatment plan of your dog:
- Oral medication
- Topical therapy
- Environmental decontamination
Oral medication is usually used alongside topical therapy. These oral drugs are to be taken for a minimum of six weeks; however, in some cases, they may still be needed for several months to get their full effect. Your vet will require that treatment continues even if symptoms appear to disappear. That your canine friend no longer shows symptoms is no evidence of complete treatment. While it is being treated, it is likely your vet will advise that every other pet in the house also be treated even if they are not showing any symptoms.
There will likely be need for topical therapy; such as ointment, cream or/and medicated shampoo in containing and treating the infection. Dogs with long hairs may have their hairs clipped, if not given an outright shave, to speed up healing. Topical therapy takes a while to eliminate the fungus –time estimated is in months– but it is helpful in curbing environmental contamination.
Your couches, beddings, furniture, clothing and grooming tools can remain infected for months from the spores living inside hair follicles. Cleaning up these hairs is essential in the course of treatment, but it is no mean task. So, keeping your dog in a room that can easily be cleaned of hairs should be a major consideration while treating it of ringworm. Doing this, cleaning with recommended disinfectants is made much easier. If for whatever reason you can’t keep your dog on hard floors, then you will need to vacuum daily in order to remove infected hair from furniture and surfaces to stem any further spread of the ringworm. You can click the link for more on treatment options.
Though trite, the saying is still true that prevention is better than cure. The best means to prevent an infection or a reinfection in your dog include regularly cleaning the environment, especially the beddings and tools used for your dog. Lastly, your knowledge of ringworm symptoms can be very helpful in prevention.