How to Treat Ringworm in Dogs: A Contagious and Itchy Infection

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jack russel terrier suffering from ringworm in dogsHave you ever wondered what causes ringworm in dogs? Many people believe that a parasitic worm actually causes ringworm in dogs and cats! However, this is far from the truth! Ringworm in dogs is actually a fungal infection that is highly contagious.

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What is Dermatophytosis aka Ringworm in Dogs?

Also known as Dermatophytosis, ringworm in dogs is a contagious fungal infection that affects most mammals.

The common fungal agents that cause dermatophytosis in pets are Microsporum canis, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and Microsporum gypseum.

Although ringworm is a common infection in humans, it is actually not as prevalent in pets. The fungi species, Microsporum canis, accounts for most cases of ringworm, and most of these infections can come from cats. Ringworm infections in dogs can be quite low; however, this will depend on your location.

What About Ringworm in Cats?

Ringworm is very common in cats. In facts, household cats are considered a reservoir of the fungi Microsporum canis. Cats infected with ringworm may be asymptomatic! Which means that an infected cat will not show symptoms of ringworm, but they can still spread the fungi to susceptible individuals.

Cat with ringworm getting scratched by human

Pathogenesis: How do Dogs Get Ringworm?

Ringworm in dogs is a superficial cutaneous fungal infection, that invades hair follicles.  When a dog or cat comes into contact with an infected animal (or fomite), the dermatophytes will invade hair follicles and hair shafts. Once the dermatophytes invade the skin, they begin to germinate and grow into the hair follicles.

Clinical Features and Symptoms of Ringworm in Dogs

The symptoms of ringworm in dogs can be highly variable. As the clinical features can vary, we’ve listed symptoms from the most common to least common.

  1.  Dogs will develop multifocal circular alopecia around their face, feet, and head.
  2. Folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle) and furunculosis (infection of the hair follicle) are common clinical signs of dermatophytosis. Folliculitis can be localized, generalized, or regional.
  3. Seborrhea sicca and hair loss are common findings
  4. Papules, scaling, crusts, and pustules may be seen as well

Is Ringworm Contagious? Absolutely!

Ringworm is a zoonotic skin disease which can spread from pets to humans.  Ringworm infections will occur when a person or pet comes into direct contact with the hair of infected animals.  For example, humans can get ringworm from their pets by simply petting their pooch.

How Does Ringworm Spread?

Now petting your furry friend isn’t the only way you can contract ringworm!

As this is a fungus, the dermatophytes of the fungi will be present within the hair shaft of an infected animal. Even once the hair sheds off, the fungi can still be infective. Infected hairs can contaminate pet collars, brushes, and toys. The ringworm dermatophytes can also be present on carpets, couches, and upholstery.

So, what could this mean for you? 

Essentially, anyone can get ringworm if they come into contact with the hair of an infected animal. The hair from infected animals can also attach to beddings, linens, combs, and even carpets. These inanimate objects are referred to as fomites, and they can also be responsible for the spread of the fungi.

5 Facts About Ringworm on Cats & Dogs

  1. Microsporum canis is an infectious zoonotic agent. Studies have shown that household cats are most susceptible to this type of ringworm.
  2. Although healthy animals are not at risk of serious infections. Ringworm can be quite dangerous in young and immunosuppressed individuals.
  3. Young animals, humidity, immunodeficiency, and excessive bathing are the main risk factors associated with ringworm in dogs.
  4. Cats and dogs affected with ringworm can experience mild to moderate pruritus (itchy skin).
  5. Long-haired cat breeds such as the Persian and the Norwegian Forest Cat are most prone to ringworm infections.

Dog Ringworm Treatment Home Remedy for Healthy Animals

Pomeranian getting washed by Ringworm dog medicated shampoo

In a healthy animal, ringworm is a self-curing disease. Research has shown that kittens infected with ringworm can recover without veterinary intervention; this is due to the development of an effective immune response.

Nevertheless, if you’ve got a dog or cat who has ringworm, then it is essential to take your pet to the vet.

Although ringworm is a self-curing disease in healthy animals, treating the condition will not only shorten the course of the infection, but it will also limit the spread of fungi to you!

How to Treat Ringworm in Dogs

The treatment for ringworm in dogs is relatively straightforward. All veterinarians follow three treatment steps to eradicate this fungal disease. The treatment procedure is broken down as:

  1. Topical treatment
  2. Systemic treatment
  3. Environmental control

Topical Treatment

Topical therapy is essential when it comes to healing ringworm in dogs. When a dog or cat is diagnosed with ringworm, then your veterinarian will recommend getting your pet clipped.

Clipping hair of infected animals will ensure that the risk of environmental contamination decreases drastically. Once a pet has been clipped, your veterinarian will suggest a series of topical treatments.

Lime-sulfur dips are commonly used as antifungals.  However, your veterinarian may also choose to use shampoos that are a mixture of miconazole and chlorhexidine.

When applying topical treatments on pets, it is essential to avoid rinsing them off. This is because you want the drugs to penetrate the skin and hair follicle completely.

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Systemic Treatment

When ringworm in dogs becomes a lot more severe, system therapy may be crucial to the recovery of your pet. Systemic therapy involved medicating your pet for a minimum of 6 weeks. Systemic therapy is always used when the ringworm lesions are generalized.

The systemic treatment for ringworm in dogs can include the use of drugs such as Itraconazole, Griseofulvin, and Ketoconazole.

Itraconazole is an anti-fungal drug that can be used in both dogs and cats. Itraconazole may be administered daily or every other day in order to promote recovery. There are often very few adverse effects associated with this drug. Nevertheless, some pets may experience diarrhea, anorexia, and nausea.

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Griseofulvin is another drug that is used to treat ringworm in dogs. This drug is restricted to dogs above the age of 6 weeks. Griseofulvin is a drug that is not intended for use in cats as it can lead to bone marrow suppression.

Ketoconazole is an anti-fungal drug most commonly used to treat ringworm in dogs. Ketoconazole is a moderately effective drug that needs to be given with a meal. It is important to note that this drug does have dangerous side effects and is considered hepatotoxic. Therefore it is not recommended for the use in cats.

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Environmental Control

Dermatophytosis is an extremely contagious disease. The dermatophyte spores are resilient and can stay in the environment for a long time. So, your veterinarian will recommend full environmental decontamination as part of the treatment plan.

As we discussed earlier, the spores of the fungi will germinate and invade the hair shafts on an infected animal. The hairs of the infected animal will fall off and contaminate the environment. To prevent further spread of the spores and the infected hairs, you must vacuum your home thoroughly.

Daily vacuuming and the cleaning of beddings and linens will decrease the spread of the dermatophytes drastically. Disinfecting surfaces should also be a priority. To disinfect your home merely mix 1 part bleach with 10 parts of water.

Finally, to prevent the spread of ringworm to other pets and people. It is important for owners to isolate all sick pets from the family. This means that if Maxwell has got ringworm, then keep him in a confined and clean area until he recovers. Maxwell, should not be in contact with other pets or young children.

Even During Ringworm Treatment for Dogs, you Furry Friend will still be Contagious!

Ringworm lesion on humans

Ringworm mark on human

When your dog is diagnosed with ringworm your veterinarian may choose aggressive therapy to eradicate this fungal disease. Ringworm has an incubation period of 10 to 12 days.

An incubation period is a time in which your pet is harboring the fungi, but clinical signs are not present. After the incubation period, your pet reaches an infective stage. This is the stage when they are most contagious!

Now, it is important to remember that even during intensive medical therapy, a dog can spread ringworm for up to 3 weeks. And so maintaining environmental hygiene is crucial!

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Lime sulfurated dip 4oz Concentrate makes one Gallon This is not one gallon of concentrate, but 4oz bottle that makes one gallon of a ready to use solution. For one gallon Concentrate please visit our store here Lime Sulfur Gallon Concentrate 128 oz Important! Please Read Below to learn how to use product effectively. How to use this product: Dilute the entire bottle 4 oz in 1 gallon water; bathe pet as you normally would make sure and rinse any excess shampoo residue till water runs clear. If you can, use a baby tub for a smaller pet or your own tub and plug the drain, this way you can reuse the dip to drench the pet well again & again between toes ears and any visible spots where there is visible hair loss. Apply lime dip as a rinse or dip must dry on pet don’t towel dry. Use a sterile eye ointment (important)

Do you think your Dog has Ringworm? Talk to Your Vet and Avoid Spreading these Contagious Fungi

Ringworm is a contagious fungi which can cause alopecia, itchy skin, and scaling. This fungi is zoonotic, which means that it can spread from pets to people.

It is important to treat ringworm medically as the fungi can cause painful lesions on the body. And, this is particularly true for immunocompromised patients!

Common Questions

What home remedy kills ringworm on dogs?

How long is ringworm contagious in dogs?

Can you get ringworm from a dog licking you?

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