Summary: In this blog, we learn if dogs can get ringworm, what it looks like on a dog, and the best ways to go about treating ringworm on dogs…
Can Dogs Get Ringworm?
Yes, they can. But, first things first, ringworm is not a worm or parasitic infection despite its name. It is, in fact, a fungal infection that can affect the skin, hair, and nails of humans, canines, and other domesticated animals. Some experts liken it to the condition Athlete’s Foot in that sense.
In dogs, ringworm mostly affects young, senior, or long-haired dogs.
What Does Ringworm In Dogs Look Like?
Classically, ringworm appears as a red (but sometimes can appear gray), inflamed, circular, raised ring on the skin – although infected areas aren’t actually always ring-shaped.
In dogs, ringworm typically infects the hair follicles and can cause the hair shafts to break off at the skin line and may lead a pet parent to think their dog is suffering from alopecia or another skin condition. An infected dog will then appear to have round patches of hair loss, and as the infection spreads across their body, the patches may become more oddly shaped, and hair may begin to grow back at the center of them. Sometimes, the patches can develop a scabby covering too. Generally, ringworm mostly appears on a dog’s legs, paws, head, and ears but it can affect any part of their body.
If your dog’s nails are infected with ringworm, their claws will become brittle and rough and may break off.
It is also possible for dogs to be “asymptomatic” carriers of ringworm, where they carry the infection but don’t present any obvious symptoms. This can prove problematic in multi-animal areas like kennels, shelters, or dog parks.
How Do Dogs Get Ringworm?
Ringworm can only be passed on via broken skin across all species that are susceptible to it, including dogs and humans.
Ringworm-causing fungi produce infective seeds known as spores. These spores are robust, can live for years, and are very tricky to get rid of in an environment. It can take just one spore to come into contact with broken skin and cause an infection.
Ringworm spreads through direct contact but can survive on surfaces such as towels, bed sheets, and grooming equipment for up to 24 months.
Can I Get Ringworm From My Dog?
It’s also worth noting that some versions of ringworm can spread between species (the technical term for this ability is zoonotic), so you can catch it from your dog by petting them and vice versa but it is uncommon. It is also only possible if you have broken skin (a graze, a sore, a scratch, or a cut).
Young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to contracting ringworm. If you do think you have ringworm, you should see your doctor. In people, ringworm will look like a red circle on the skin.
If your dog has ringworm, and you’ve taken them to the vet for diagnosis and you haven’t contracted it by then, then it’s very likely you won’t contract it at all.
How To Treat Ringworm In Dogs
A dog should see a vet if they are suspected of having a ringworm infection. Medication is required to treat ringworm, and this is essential to stop it from spreading in your home and through your community. Home remedies found on the internet will not suffice.
Your vet may check your dog’s skin for ringworm infection with a UV light as some ringworm infections show up underneath it, or they will examine your dog’s fur and skin under a microscope. They may take a sample from your dog’s skin to examine it even closer or send it to a lab for testing.
If your vet confirms infection, your dog may be prescribed a course of tablets to stop the ringworm reproducing and/or a topical, medicated shampoo. For the duration of their treatment, you should wear gloves and an apron when administering their medication or bathing them in the shampoo. Some ringworm medications should not be handled if you are pregnant, so do make your vet aware if you are and they can advise.
Failing to follow the prescribed course of treatment and veterinary advice means you and your dog are at risk of the medication not working and the ringworm continuing to spread and infect.
While your dog is undergoing treatment for their ringworm, you should confine them to one area in your home so the spores cannot spread throughout the house. You should wash soft furnishings, sheets, and blankets and thoroughly vacuum or steam clean carpets and curtains frequently to remove the contaminating spores from the environment and prevent your dog from becoming reinfected.
You should empty the vacuum bag after use and burn its contents outside in a safe way. If you empty it into your indoor trash can, you risk the spores being able to get back into the home again. If there are toys, grooming equipment, blankets, or furniture coverings that cannot be washed, it is best to burn them too.
All other surfaces should be cleaned with disinfectant, including dog-grooming tools. Your vet can advise on the most effective disinfectants for ringworm spores.
Author Ward, Ernest DVM and Panning, Amy DVM “Ringworm In Dogs” VCA Hospitals https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/ringworm-in-dogs
“Ringworm In Dogs” Blue Cross, Sep 12. 2019 https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/ringworm-in-dogs
“Ringworm In Dogs” PDSA, Aug. 2020 https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/ringworm-in-dogs