No pet owner ever wants to hear that their furry companion has been infected with ringworm. Even though it is not life-threatening, ringworm in pets is still an infection that can cause severe skin complications if gone untreated. That’s why it’s imperative that pet owners recognize the signs and symptoms of ringworm in dogs, so they can treat their pet as soon as possible.
Despite its name, ringworm is actually a fungal infection that can affect all domestic animals. Due to its commonality among the pet community, dog owners begin to wonder, “If one of my dogs becomes infected with ringworm, can they spread it to the other dogs in my household?”
Unfortunately, the answer is yes, ringworm in dogs can be very contagious. Luckily for owners, these infections are curable. In order to prevent ringworm from spreading, it’s critical to always monitor your dog’s overall health. The last thing you want is for your dog to unknowingly become infected with ringworm and then have it spread to yourself or other members of the family.
What is ringworm?
As previously stated, ringworm actually has nothing to do with worms at all. This infection occurs when there is an accumulation of pathogenic fungus on the outer layer of the skin. It was given this name due to the red rings that develop on the surface of the dog’s skin.
This infection can be caused by three different varieties of fungus- Microsporum Canis, Microsporum Gypseum, or Trichophyton mentagrophytes. This fungus lives deep inside the hair follicles, and will continue to grow there and flourish as long as the dog is infected.
Although the chances of your dog becoming infected with ringworm are quite low compared to other health concerns, it is still a highly infectious illness, which can only be treated with proper medications.
How are dogs infected by ringworm?
Ringworm is commonly spread through skin-to-skin contact with another animal. However, keep in mind that a dog can still become infected with ringworm just by becoming exposed to a place that an infected animal has recently come into contact with. Fungal spores can stay dormant on inanimate objects up to several month. These fungal spores can be killed with a chlorine bleach and water solution. Puppies, older dogs, and animals that have an immune system deficiency are all at a higher risk for contracting ringworm.
It’s important to keep in mind that this skin infection can affect humans as well. When a dog is diagnosed with a severe case of ringworm, his owner and other household pets become susceptible to this infection, and will display similar symptoms.
Even though ringworm is highly contagious, that doesn’t mean that every person that comes into contact with an infected dog will automatically be infected as well. There are several factors that increase the chances of developing this infection. Factors include a weakened immune system or people that are young or old in age.
Most healthy adults are usually resistant to the infection unless there is an open wound or scratch on the skin. Ringworm isn’t guaranteed to transfer just by initial contact, but it is still important to be aware of the possible risks.
Symptoms of Ringworm in Dogs
As previously stated, ringworm affects the outer-most layer of the skin. This infection leads to bald patches, changes in the coat, brittle hair, scabbing, and inflamed sections of the skin. Your dog may also experience dry and cracking nails if the infection has spread to this area of his body.
In more serious cases, lesions will form around the body, causing bald spots, scaly patches, and irritated skin. Even though most cases of ringworm display the same symptoms, some infected dogs may not show any signs at all. That’s why it’s so important to have regular check-ups with your veterinarian as often as possible.
Treating Canine Ringworm
In order to properly diagnose your dog with ringworm, your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination as well as a diagnostic test (this includes taking a fungal culture of a sample of hair and skin cells). Your veterinarian may inspect the infected hairs under a Wood’s lamp as the M. Canis species will glow fluorescent. If the test results are positive for ringworm, your veterinarian will then prescribe an oral antifugal medication as well as a topical antifungal treatment.
If you or one of your family members becomes infected with ringworm, there are several treatment options available for a quick recovery. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an over-the-counter medication will be necessary to treat ringworm in humans. However, if the ringworm affects the scalp, the fungal infection will need to be treated with a prescription antifungal medication.
If your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm, make sure to treat it as soon as possible to avoid further contamination. Even though this infection is highly contagious, it can be easily treated with medications provided by your veterinarian.