Symptoms of Ringworm in Dogs

As a pet parent, it is important to know about the symptoms of ringworm in dogs so that it doesn't go untreated. Early detection can protect your pet's health.

What is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a dog skin fungus and is not related to worms at all. The fungus is microsporum canis. The infection caused by this fungus is zoonotic, meaning that it can cross species and infect cats and humans, as well as dogs. Ringworm grows on the surface of the skin. Since ringworm is a contagious condition, it should be treated as soon as its symptoms are detected.

Ringworm Symptoms

Ringworm symptoms usually occur about 10 days after exposure to the fungus.

1. Lesions

Ringworm in dogs, cats and humans is characterized by circular lesions on the skin. In dogs, the lesions are hairless, since the fungus infects hair follicles and causes the hair to fall out.

As the condition progresses, the lesions will grow in size and become scaly. Sometimes, the lesions are itchy and the skin may become reddened and inflamed. Canine ringworm lesions commonly occur on the face, ears, paws and tail.

2. Hair Loss

If you notice that your dog's hair is starting to fall out, inspect the patches. If your dog has thicker fur, you may not see the lesions or rash before this symptom happens. So, be sure to take note of any diet or lifestyle changes that might have happened to your dog, and check their bare patches for redness, dryness and inflammation.

3. Dry and Brittle Fur

You can tell a lot about your pet's health by looking at the quality of their fur. Keep in mind that each breed of dog is different, with some fur textures being softer than others. But you know your dog best. If you find that the texture of their fur has changed, becoming more dry and brittle, then bring them to the vet for examination.

4. Rough and Brittle Nails

If the fungal infection has spread on your pet's body, it can affect the health of their paws and nails. If you notice that your pet's nails are flaking and they are constantly biting or licking them, then taking them to the vet should be a top task on your list.

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Is Your Pet At Risk?

Ringworm is found most often in young dogs or in mature dogs with weakened immune systems. Disease (such as canine diabetes), pre-existing skin conditions or trauma can weaken a dog's immune system and increase their susceptibility to ringworm.

Ringworm Treatment and Prevention

If left untreated, ringworm will run its course in a few weeks. However, ringworm treatment is a good idea in order to reduce discomfort from symptoms and avoid infecting humans and other animals

A diagnosis of ringworm should be made by a veterinarian before treatment is undertaken, since mange and other skin conditions may be mistaken for ringworm. A vet will use a fungal culture to make a positive diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, there are several treatments available for ringworm. Anti-fungal drugs, such as Griseofulvin, inhibit the spread of ringworm, but may cause undesired side effects including immune system suppression. Lime sulfur dips are a recommended treatment but should only be carried out under a vet's instructions. Medicated anti-fungal dog shampoos and lotions are also effective in combating ringworm in dogs.

An infected dog should be quarantined either inside or outside until the symptoms of ringworm disappear. Fungus spores can be spread throughout the living environment, and may infect the animal again following ringworm treatment. For this reason, it is important to clean exposed living areas with bleach. Fabrics the dog has come in contact with should also be washed with bleach. When cleaning and washing with bleach, a dilution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water should be used. The veterinarian may suggest additional preventive measures.

Final Thoughts

If you have gone through our list of symptoms and believe your pet is at risk, don't panic. Simply call your vet and make an appointment at earliest convenience. Once your pet is there, the vet will offer the best treatment option to get your dog back to being healthy.