What Does Ringworm Look Like on A Dog? Symptoms, Contagion?

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 Ringworm in dogs is a skin disease well known to dog owners and little appreciated. It is never pleasant to see your animal lose its hair in patches, and the idea that this mycosis is transmissible to humans does not rejoice the masters of the poor infected doggies. Unfortunately, ringworm is a highly contagious disease that is not easy to eliminate. It will take a prolonged treatment and primarily treat the environment to prevent the dog from re-contaminating. Although ringworm does not individually manifest itself in dogs, it is usually in the form of patches of hair loss with crusty skin. Ringworm can be seen in all animals, including dogs. Ringworm appears as a scarlet lesion in molar dogs. In some dogs, it seems like a gray scaly patch. Young dogs, long-haired dogs, and older dogs are more likely to be affected by this disease than other dogs. In this article, we will answer what ringworm looks like on a dog and other questions you ask about ringworm. 


What Is Ringworm In Dogs?

Ringworm is a mycosis, a fungal skin disease caused by a tiny fungus that feeds on keratin. These fungi, dermatophytes, attack the skin and hair of contaminated animals. There are several types of fungi responsible for an infection: Microsporum Canis (the main agent of ringworm), Microsporum Gypsum (a fungus that grows on the ground and mainly attacks dogs who like to dig with their heads), and Trichophyton mentagrophytes (present in the external environment mainly in rodents, cats and dogs). 

Nevertheless, dermatophytosis is generally more common in cats than in dogs. In our feline friends, approximately 98% of infections are caused by the Microsporum Canis fungus. And it is rare for a cat to become infected with a fungus of the Trichophyton mentagrophytes type, whether through contact with rodents or, in rural areas, with horses or cattle. In dogs, fungal infections are less frequent and often result from a deficient immune system of the animal (for example, in puppies), but also contagion by an infected cat. 

These fungi are zoonoses, which can be transmitted from animal to animal, animal to human, or man to animal! 

What Does Ringworm Look Like on A Dog? What Are The Symptoms?

The answer to the “what does ringworm look like on a dogis the symptoms of ringworm are very varied. In addition to sick infected animals, asymptomatic healthy carriers show no external signs of fungal skin disease but are nevertheless highly contagious. Persian cats, in particular, sometimes carry ringworm without damaging their skin or coat.  

Symptoms can range from clinically unchanged hair to massive changes such as breakage, hair loss, dandruff, scabs, and itching. In dogs, these fungi cause hair loss with some scales with a characteristic rounded shape (the circular area is often well-defined). In addition, the dog's skin may show redness and the formation of dandruff or even scabs, especially in the case of an infection with the fungus Trichophyton mentagrophytes. 

Contagion by dermatophytes can cause symptoms in all dogs, but they most often appear in young or weakened dogs. The incubation period, i.e., the time between the moment of infection and the appearance of visible symptoms, varies from four days to four weeks. 

The cutaneous traces are not specific and can, for example, show redness, localized hair loss, broken hairs, flaking skin, and dandruff. Some dogs infected with ringworm also suffer from itching. 

If your dog is scratching, secondary infections can occur in the itchy areas, which will lead to inflammation of the skin and the formation of scabs. Often, it is the front part of the dog's head, ears, legs, and tail that are particularly affected by ringworm. However, the spores can reach other parts of the body (especially if it scratches) and thus spread easily.


Who Are The Risk Profiles?

Fragile dogs - sick, young, or old - are more likely to contract dermatophytosis. A weakened immune system is also determining factor in contamination. Infection can occur through direct contact with an infected and sick animal but also through contact with a healthy carrier. However, indirect infection through a contaminated environment is possible if you use the brushes or plaids from his basket without washing or disinfecting them.

How To Diagnose Ringworm in Dogs?

The diagnosis is established by detecting the presence of ringworm fungi: 

either because the organism is visible in the hairs,

either by scraping the skin using a microscope,

or through culture on a specific medium.

Mushrooms grow slowly, which is why it takes about 15 days to have a response on a culture. Some moths are fluorescent and detectable using a UV lamp.

 Is It Contagious For Humans?

The fungus can be transmitted from infected animals to humans and vice versa. Transmission from one species to another is also possible. However, as we have seen, direct contact is not always a prerequisite for transmission: infected hair or contaminated objects are enough to spread the infection.

How is ringworm transmitted?

The fungus is transmitted directly between animals or indirectly through contact with surfaces or objects contaminated with hair, dust, or deposits of dead skin from infected animals. The spores of the fungus are contagious for over a year and a half, and in the fight against the disease, thorough cleaning of the dog's environment is important for treatment to be effective. 

The fungi that trigger ringworm in dogs are Trichophyton mentagrophytes and Microsporum canis, more rarely, other fungi. Humans can become infected in the form of a red rash that may scratch. Transmission is also possible to rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals.

If the fungus is not present on the dog during the first examination, it is possible to take a sample again a few weeks later to ensure the infection is over. 


How To Diagnose Ringworm in Dogs?

The surest way to diagnose ringworm is through laboratory fungal cultures. Only these fungal cultures make it possible to distinguish the different causative agents of a fungal infection, which has advantages for the choice of treatment. It is sometimes possible to conclude the origin of the infection from the simple identification of the fungus. It's quick and painless for your dog to collect a sample for culturing (with a piece of carpet rubbed across his coat). However, sometimes it takes up to 4 weeks before the growth of the fungus is detected in the culture. 

There are also two other main means of diagnosing dermatophytosis: an examination of the hairs under a microscope on the one hand and an examination with Wood's lamp (green fluorescent coloring of the area in the presence of the fungus), but unfortunately, if the assessment is negative, it cannot be deduced that the dog is not infected with ringworm. On the other hand, wood lamp examination is quick, so that it can be performed as a first-line treatment at the veterinarian.

 Nevertheless, culture remains the only completely reliable method for diagnosing ringworm in dogs. It also helps identify the contaminating ringworm strain!

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What Is The Treatment For Ringworm in Dogs?

Animals infected with ringworm are highly contagious, including humans. Always consult your veterinarian, who will prescribe the appropriate treatment for your animal's mycosis.

 Ringworm will heal on its own without any treatment. Healing takes several months. So remember that you must treat your animal with caution. Indeed, ringworm is transmissible to other animals and humans!

 To treat dermatophytosis, the classic treatment consists of the combination of tablets (oral treatment) with an external treatment of the affected skin areas (topical treatment), without forgetting, of course, the disinfection of the environment! Without this, your efforts would be for naught because your animal would recontaminate itself in contact with the environment. Therefore, the treatment is generally long: it often lasts weeks or even months.

 Soon after starting treatment, the outward appearance of the skin returns to normal, and hair begins to grow back. However, the treatment should not be stopped too early, as the disease may reappear. In addition, affected animals sometimes appear to be in perfect health, even though they are still carriers of the fungus. As such, they still represent a source of infection for other animals or humans. Good to know: in some cases, the tablets used to combat dermatophytosis have side effects requiring regular blood test monitoring.


Should We Treat The Environment?

Yes, it is necessary: ​​constant disinfection of the environment reduces the risk of reinfection of your animal and protects the members of your household from reinfection. In terms of preventive measures, we recommend that you vacuum regularly (and destroy or throw the bags in the trash), wash the floors with disinfectants, and throw away contaminated objects. In addition, please avoid close physical contact until your pet has recovered. And if you have to handle your dog, always wash your hands after each contact for the duration of the treatment (which can reach a total duration of 6 months).

Prevention Against Transmission of Ringworm

Ringworm is directly transmissible between animals. Therefore, avoid your dog coming into contact with dogs or possibly being affected by ringworm. You should also avoid using accessories (brush, transport cage, etc.) for other dogs. If it is impossible to avoid, the equipment must be meticulously cleaned and disinfected.

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