Ringworm: The Contagious Infection You Don't Want Your Dog to Catch

Ringworm: The Contagious Infection You Don't Want Your Dog to Catch

Pet owners who also have children are likely to understand the fear of a ringworm outbreak in a school or public location. But did you know that ringworm not only affects humans, but also pets?

Ringworm is a contagious infection that not only spreads extremely fast but can be pretty difficult to get rid of. Knowing the signs of ringworm in pets can help you get it treated right away so it doesn’t have the opportunity to spread.

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes flaky lesions on the skin. It can also affect the hair and nails of dogs. There are numerous types of fungi that can cause ringworm, and they are most often spread through direct contact with infected animals.

Infected beddings, objects and cages or carriers can also transmit the fungus, which makes it extremely contagious. In a multi-pet household, boarding facility or animal shelter, ringworm is able to spread extremely fast due to its prevalence and contractibility.

Dogs with suppressed immune systems, including very young or old dogs, are more likely to catch the fungus and may even experience severe side effects because of it.

Ringworm has a few tell-tale signs that dog owners should look out for:

  • Patches of hair loss that may appear circular
  • Poor coat quality
  • Red skin
  • Scaling or flaky skin
  • Crusting on the skin
  • Some itchiness (not always a symptom)

The circular patches of hair loss and red, flaky skin are most recognizable out of all the symptoms. Sometimes, these areas develop lesions that ooze.

Unfortunately, some dogs won’t display symptoms of ringworm at all. These dogs are considered “silent carriers” that can pass the fungus to other animals without displaying symptoms and, therefore, are very difficult to treat.

Some dogs will develop secondary infections after contracting ringworm. These are usually caused by bacteria and will require separate treatment.

Can humans catch ringworm from dogs?

One of the biggest concerns pet owners have when it comes to ringworm is whether humans and dogs can transmit the fungus to one another. Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Ringworm can be spread from your dog to you, as well as other dogs, cats and other pets. This is part of what makes it so dangerous and difficult to deal with. You can contract ringworm by touching bedding, furniture and objects your infected dog has interacted with, as well as by handling its infection with bare hands. Spores of the fungus can remain contagious for over one year.

Similarly, if you have multiple pets, one infected pet could quickly turn into two, three or more infected pets if they all play together. This also increases your risk of developing ringworm.

The level of contagiousness ringworm possesses is why keeping infected dogs away from public spaces like dog parks and boarding facilities is absolutely necessary until the infection clears up.

Treating your dog’s ringworm

As soon as you notice the symptoms of ringworm on your dog, avoid making physical contact with the skin and contact your veterinarian. The vet will need to take a sample of your dog’s infected skin or hair to examine and diagnose ringworm.

Minor cases of ringworm can usually be treated with a topical anti-fungal ointment applied to the affected skin or a medicated shampoo. However, more serious cases of ringworm may require oral anti-fungal medication, as well as medication to treat secondary infections or side effects.

Unfortunately, ringworm treatment can take a long time—up to a few months—to ensure that the fungal infection is completely cleared. Pet parents must be vigilant about continuing treatment until cleared to stop by a veterinarian. If treatment is stopped too early, the infection could return very quickly.

Due to ringworm’s severe contagiousness, pets getting treated for ringworm should be quarantined from other animals and humans to prevent it from spreading. If you have other pets in the home, your vet may recommend having them tested for ringworm, as well, to ensure they did not contract the fungus or are silent carriers of it.

Your vet may also provide you with a plan to de-contaminate your home to ensure to fungus is able to begin a new infection on you or another pet. You will likely need to thoroughly clean your floors, counter-tops, upholstery and bedding, as well as toys, to ensure no fungus remains in the home.

Because of the danger and the headache ringworm can cause in your household, it’s important to look out for the signs of infection and take immediate action. If you, your children or your pets contract ringworm, begin treatment immediately and avoid contact with others to prevent the spread.