Ringworm in Dogs
Dogs can develop ringworm just as easily as people can. This specific skin condition stems from a fungal infection within the body. While Microsporum canis is the official term for ringworm, Dermatophytosis is the broad word used to describe any parasitic fungus that affects nails, hair, or skin. Itchy, flaky red skin is a short term effect caused by the infection, while oozing lesions may be a more long-term problem.
What Symptoms Are Common?
Ringworm commonly causes reddening of the skin. It often creates a circular shaped pattern of raised skin that appears flaky and dry. This dried out skin will usually itch, but this itching should be discouraged so the infection is not spread further.
On dogs, the coat is often impacted as well. Visible dandruff is typically present. Dogs may also experience hair loss due to the constant itching, with patches of fur missing. The fur right around each lesion often falls out.
Are There Uncommon Symptoms?
When the condition worsens, large lesions may be seen. Boils can also develop. These boils and raised lesions may begin to puss and ooze, causing the fur around it to become matted.
What Causes Ringworm in Dogs?
A fungal infection is the main cause of ringworm in dogs. The way the infection is received is different for every dog, often depending on the area in which the dog lives. Different locations harbor different fungus types.
Some dogs carry the fungus within their systems. This means while they may not present signs themselves, they can still effect other animals, and even people.
Certain medications may weaken a dog’s immune system. This leads to higher chances of infection, and a more difficult time healing from the infection afterward.
Animal shelters and kennels, where a variety of dogs are present on a regular basis, are main culprits for spreading the illness. This is especially true when poor nutrition is provided, and dogs known to have the disease are not quarantined for the appropriate amount of time.
Is Ringworm Contagious?
Ringworm is an extremely contagious disease. One animal can easily spread it to another when they come in contact. Dogs can even spread the infection to humans, who can then spread it to others.
Pets do not have to come in direct contact with an infected animal. Instead, all they have to do is touch a contaminated item used by that dog or cat, such as a hairbrush, bed, or other personal item. This can cause the infection to spread. All personal pet care items should be washed regularly to avoid this.
What is the Diagnosis?
Diagnosing ringworm is not typically too difficult. Most veterinarians are able to tell right away when a dog has some type of fungal infection. The signs are clear. There are some tests that can be performed though to help pinpoint the precise problem and let people know for sure that their dog has the disease.
A fungal culture should be taken to determine what exact type of fungus has made its way into the dog’s system. This is usually done by taking skin clippings or a hair sample.
A skin biopsy may need to be performed if the infection is hard to catch. This will provide deeper results.
Sometimes the symptoms of ringworm present themselves oddly. They may also cause extreme itchiness, causing the dog to over-scratch and tear out fur. The signs can sometimes be confused with mange, which is when tests are necessary.
What is the Prognosis?
Dogs with a ringworm infection usually have it cleared up in a short time. The prognosis is good, with nearly all instances ending in a cleared up case. No casualties occur from a simple ringworm infection.
While the infection itself clears up, it is still important to note that a fungal culture may come back positive anyways. This means that the bacteria is still present in the dog’s system. While he may no longer show signs of having the infection, it can still be passed on to others until the test comes back negative.
How is Ringworm Treated?
An antifungal medication is required to treat the infection. It should be applied directly to the area at least two times a day. Before the first application, it is best to trim the fur directly surrounding the area so it makes the healing process faster and easier.
There are even antifungal shampoos that can be applied. This may be necessary for dogs with a large treatment area, or those that have scratched in various spots throughout their bodies.
Oral treatments are also possible, helping to fight the infection within. This is often used in severe cases, or for those that have rubbed their skin raw from itching. Applying ointment would burn and cause pain, while the oral treatments will not.
Living with Ringworm
Dogs that have ringworm need to be kept away from other pets and people as much as possible. They may need to be quarantined for a short time while the topical cream starts to work.
Owners must still come into contact with their dogs while applying the creams or administering oral medication. During these times, gloves must be worn to prevent the infection from spreading. People should also wash their hands immediately afterward.
There is no true way to prevent the disease from occurring. Some dogs already have the bacteria in their system, which can cause the fungal infection to begin and grow as soon as the immune system is weak enough.
It is important for owners to keep their pets healthy so their immune systems are as strong as possible. Plenty of food, water, and exercise is required.
Multiple pets in a household should each have their own set of personal grooming items. This means separate brushes for each dog in the house, as well as separate beds. Because it is not possible to keep dogs out of each other’s beds at all time, or keep them away from each other, all bedding should regularly be washed to avoid the spreading of diseases.