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Ringworm in dogs: symptoms, cause, treatment and prevention

Ringworm in dogs is a zoonosis, which means that it can be transmitted to humans. It is extremely contagious. It is therefore very important to know how to spot its symptoms in order to consult the veterinarian as soon as possible so that the dog can benefit from an adequate treatment. But what is the cause of ringworm and is it possible to prevent it? Let's find out.

Ringworm: a very contagious fungus

Ringworm is a mycosis that is also called dermatomycosis and is caused by dermatophytes, parasitic fungi, and more specifically by Microsporum canis, but other fungi can also cause it, such as Trichophyton mentagrophytes or Microsporum gypseum. These affect puppies in particular, but adult dogs can also be affected by this canine skin disease.

The fungi responsible for ringworm are extremely resistant. They feed on fallen skin flakes and dead hair. This is enough for them to resist in any environment for several months. Ringworm is therefore a very contagious disease that can affect different animal species as well as humans. The parasitic fungi develop on the dog's skin, between its claws and on its coat. They eat away at the hair to such an extent that it becomes brittle and falls out in clumps. Each fragment of hair touched by the parasite contaminates humans and healthy animals.

Contaminating sites are extremely numerous when you have a dog affected by ringworm because its hair is everywhere: on the dog's brush, in its basket, on the living room carpet, on its masters' bed (whether it is allowed to climb on it or not), on children's toys, car seats. The risks of contamination also exist where the dog never goes since the animal's hair that clings to clothes is transported from one place to another if we are not careful. So you can be infected even when you have no direct contact with the animal.

Ringworm in dogs: symptoms

Ringworm can be identified by the following symptoms:
  • Circular skin lesions with slow evolution: they can be found on the dog's body, but they are even more frequent on the animal's legs and head.
  • The perimeter of the affected areas is inflamed,
  • Scales,
  • Crusts,
  • broken hairs,
  • A more or less diffuse depilation depending on the areas concerned,
  • Alopecia (alopecia), especially in short-haired dogs,
  • An "inflammatory and suppurated ringworm lesion" called a kerion, knowing that each lesion may contain pus and be painful,
  • An attack on the claws.
More rarely, ringworm can be asymptomatic, i.e., it does not cause any symptoms that would make it possible to identify it. However, the animal, which is then a healthy carrier, is just as contagious.

It is strongly recommended to consult the veterinarian at the slightest suspicion to avoid the inflammation to spread but also to limit the risks of contamination of all the animal's entourage.

Ringworm in dogs: diagnosis and treatment

The diagnosis of ringworm in dogs can be confirmed by three different methods:
  • Examination of the dog's hair with a Wood's lamp. This is an ultraviolet lamp that can detect the fungus that causes ringworm because it usually produces a yellow-green fluorescent substance under this type of light.
  • Microscopic examination of the animal's hair that has been eaten away by ringworm,
  • Culture of the hairs from one of the lesioned areas. The results are not available for several weeks. The veterinarian will only choose this method when the previous two methods have not yielded conclusive results or when the results are negative.
Once ringworm has been diagnosed in the dog, the animal is treated either with a natural antifungal agent such as essential oils, or with homeopathy, or with traditional medicine. In the latter case, the veterinarian prescribes an oral treatment and a fungicidal drug applied locally. The latter, applied directly to the lesions either with a sponge or a soft brush, eradicates the fungi.

However, in order for these treatments to be effective and to prevent recurrence, it is essential that they be administered to the dog for one month. It is also essential that the owner treat all of his animals (cat, hamster, etc.) including asymptomatic carriers. Humans living in the household should also be treated on medical advice because even if the animals are cured afterwards, ringworm does not disappear without treatment.

The management of ringworm is restrictive, but the entire protocol must be followed to the letter. Thus, in addition to the treatments against ringworm, it is necessary to disinfect completely the bowls, the toys, the basket and the cover of each animal, the litters, the premises intended to accomodate its animals as well as all the house.

This means screening floor and wall coverings, carpets, cushions, bedding, sofas, chairs and other furniture. Don't forget that dog hair gets everywhere, including closets! Anything that can be treated with bleach should be cleaned with this product because dermatophyte spores are not resistant to it. To complete this disinfection, it is recommended to opt for a fumigation or a spray of targeted veterinary products.

How to prevent ringworm in dogs?

It is not easy to prevent ringworm because you cannot prevent your dog from coming across an infected animal. Moreover, even if one is careful, one does not distrust an asymptomatic carrier animal since there is no indication that it could be contagious.

Prevention involves regular inspection of the animal's hair, skin and claws and maintaining impeccable hygiene in the home and in the adjoining premises, which can be regularly sprayed with a specific antifungal agent. In the same way, all the sanitary rules must be respected within a breeding, as well as the quarantine of a new arrival, whether it is a dog, a cat or other. It is the same thing in the family sphere when adopting a pet. If you have any doubts about a new pet, you can take the precaution of having your veterinarian check for the presence of dermatophytes by means of an economical examination (Wood light) or, a more expensive procedure, a mycological culture. The animal and all the people around it should be treated without delay.