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Ringworm in dogs – Signs and treatment options

Ringworm in dogs – Signs and treatment options

Contrary to its name, ringworm has absolutely zilch to do with actual worms. Instead, it’s a fungal infection that often appears as a round-shaped rash – hence the label.

Ringworm is mostly seen in cats, but it also affects dogs. This rash can crop up on a dog’s hair, skin, or nails. Usually, though, it appears around a dog’s face, or on their ears, paws, legs, or tail.

It tends to afflict dogs with compromised immune systems, like older or ill dogs, dogs with skin conditions, and puppies. It’s also somewhat common in dogs with long hair as well as certain breeds, including Yorkshire Terriers, Boston Terriers, and Jack Russells.

Ringworm is incredibly contagious – which is why quick, effective treatment is crucial. If you’re curious about the best treatments for ringworm in dogs, here’s what you need to know.

What does ringworm look like on dogs? The signs and symptoms of ringworm in dogs

Depending on where the infection has surfaced on your dog’s body (skin, hair, or nails), ringworm dog symptoms may look a little different. And in rare cases, dogs can be entirely asymptomatic.

Generally, though, ringworm in dogs tends to cause the following:

  • Hair loss, often in a circular shape and with a crusty or scaly covering or edges
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Dark patches on the skin
  • Dandruff
  • Broken hair
  • Poor-looking coat
  • Excessive scratching or grooming
  • In the case of ringworm on the nails, dry or brittle nails and/or red, inflamed nail beds

Symptoms tend to appear around 1 to 3 weeks after infection.

ringworm in dogs
Image courtesy of RSPCA

How is ringworm spread in dogs?

Unfortunately, ringworm spreads pretty easily. It can travel from dog to dog, or from surface or object to dog. For example, a dog may come into direct contact with an infected dog’s rash. Or, they may rub or brush against a contaminated object, such as a food or water bowl, or surface, such as a rug. Ringworm can also survive in soil, meaning a dog can contract it by digging in the garden.

Most of the time dogs contract ringworm from other dogs, or even from cats or humans. But contraction via surfaces or the ground can just as easily occur. This is because ringworm spores can survive for a really long time – sometimes between 12 and 18 months.

Can humans get ringworm from dogs?

Yep! Ringworm is zoonotic, which basically means it can go between dogs and humans, and back again.

Ringworm can spread just as easily from dogs to humans as it can between dogs. And just like the kinds of dogs it tends to affect, humans who are particularly prone to catching it include young kids, those with weakened immunity, and people with diabetes or obesity.

Because humans can also catch it from objects and surfaces, it’s very possible to get it from a dog’s brush, bed, or food and water bowls, or from surfaces around the home. If your doggo has ringworm, it’s important to minimise contact with them as much as possible.

Wear gloves around them and make sure you wash your hands after every interaction. It’s best to also wash your hands after handling their food and water bowls, brushes, and any other objects they come in contact with, and disinfect hard surfaces.

If you notice any signs of ringworm on yourself, or someone else in your home, visit the doctor straight away. Luckily, the infection is very easy to treat.

Can dog ringworm heal on its own?

It can, but it takes a really long time – even up to a year. During that time, your dog will be in quite a bit of discomfort. It can also lead to hair loss and other infections. And while not overly common, the infection has the potential to spread to other parts of their body, too.

Plus, your dog will remain contagious until the ringworm disappears. This could mean spreading the infection to other pets, anyone living in the household, and to objects and surfaces around the home. That’s why it’s best to treat ringworm quickly.

How do I get rid of ringworm on my dog?

There are a few different ways of treating ringworm in dogs. In most cases, proper care will involve a number of different measures. For example, your vet might recommend using skin treatments and oral medication to nip the infection in the bud.

If you have other pets, you might want to treat them for ringworm, too. This maximises your chances of getting rid of ringworm from your home once and for all.

Separating your dog

The first step is to keep your dog in a separate part of the home, away from family members and other pets. Ideally you want somewhere self-contained, where they can eat, drink, and sleep alone. The room should also be free of carpet, rugs, sofas, and other soft furnishings that can be hard to clean and disinfect. The laundry or a second bathroom are good options.

Keep your dog separate until your vet gives them the all-clear.

Oral medications

Ringworm is often treated using a course of oral medication, especially in more severe cases. Available as pills or tablets, oral treatments block the fungus’s ability to reproduce. Your dog might be on medication for up to six weeks, but because oral treatments are so effective, they can usually clear the infection pretty well.

Topical solutions

For milder cases of ringworm in dogs, a topical solution might be enough. But in most cases, vets recommend a combination of oral and topical treatments. These solutions are generally used for anywhere between 2 and 4 weeks, or up to a few months in severe cases.

Topical remedies may come in the form of all-over solutions, such as medicated shampoo, or a spot treatment that goes directly on the affected area.

Some of our favourite treatments for ringworm in dogs include:

Keeping clean

It’s crucial you keep your home clean while treating your dog. This minimises the risk of ringworm spores spreading on objects and surfaces. Ensure you regularly vacuum up your dog’s hair, disinfect hard surfaces, and wash any items they come in contact with.

Hand hygiene is also key. Remember to wash them regularly – especially after coming into contact with your doggo – and wear gloves if you can.

And lastly, while we know it’s difficult to do, you’ll want to avoid cuddling your dog while they’re being treated. Just remember it’ll hopefully only be a few weeks until they get the all-clear – after which there’s absolutely no limit to the amount of snuggling you can provide!


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