Ringworm has a misleading but visually accurate name. The malady is a fungal infection of the skin. The fungus often presents as a red, circular patch on the skin. It is often accompanied by hair loss, dandruff, red or darkened skin, itchiness, or raised nodular lesions that tend to ooze. Without proper treatment, it will spread quickly and make your dog miserable.
What Causes Ringworm?
As mentioned above, ringworm is not caused by a worm but is actually a fungal infection. Young dogs, dogs in shelters or kennels, and dogs with immunocompromising diseases (or those on immunosuppressive medications) are more commonly subjected to the infection. As the immune system builds with age, dogs are less likely to develop ringworm. Kennels and shelters, necessarily, keep dogs in close quarters. Ringworm spreads quickly this way as it is very infectious. A dog that is improperly fed or taken care of may also contract the fungus, and it, of course, spreads more quickly when there is too short of a quarantine for the affected dog.
How is it Diagnosed?
Since ringworm is fungal, it may often be self-diagnosed (by you) and self-medicated with anti-fungal topical creams. However, it is always a good idea to get a medical professional’s opinion and gain access to prescription strength and ringworm specific anti-fungal medications. Your vet will likely perform an examination and may also perform a fungal culture, examine a sample of hair under a microscope, or perhaps perform a skin biopsy.
How Does it Spread?
As previously mentioned, ringworm is highly infectious and spreads more quickly when dogs are in close quarters. Since the infection is on the surface of the skin, dogs may contract it by touching other dogs, blankets that have been used by dogs that already have the infection, or from handlers that are touching dogs in different areas without using gloves or washing their hands. It is very important that those working in kennels or shelters pay very close attention to skin health, practice proper hygiene, and do their best to ensure the dogs are in good health. A good tip may be to quarantine intakes until there has been at least a cursory examination for healthy skin and a healthy coat on each dog. As the shelter dog grows in strength and health, they will also grow less susceptible to the infection.
Treating Ringworm in Dogs
Treating ringworm in dogs is, thankfully, a simple affair though it may be difficult to stop from spreading. The treatment will depend on how severe the infection is. You may be able to get by with buying an over the counter topical anti-fungal cream. In more severe cases, you will need to get a prescription strength cream through your vet. Even if your case does not seem severe, it is a good idea to get it checked out since the vet will be able to recommend the best treatment and give you tips to prevent the spread of the infection to yourself, your family, or your other pets. It is also important to be aware of the risk of reinfection. Reinfection is a high risk with ringworm since it is so highly infectious. Without proper treatment, the affected area may spread to other parts of your pet’s body. You want to give proper treatment, but you don’t likely want the practice to become an expert in treating ringworm in dogs.
Although ringworm is highly infectious, proper examination, treatment and quarantine will quickly heal the infection and stop the spread of it to other dogs, animals or humans in proximity of the pet. Your vet is the best person to speak with and will have access to the best new treatments. Make sure to occasionally inspect your dog for yourself. If you see anything worrying, take them in for a check-up. Regular vet care and self-awareness of the fungus and its dangers will likely keep you and your dog from suffering at all, or at least from suffering severe cases.