Just like humans, dogs can also get infected by ringworm. If you’re not sure what ringworm looks like on a dog, then below I will describe the signs and include pictures. After looking at the pictures or ringworm on a dog’s skin, belly, or nose, please consult with a vet for next steps.
Ringworm on a dog looks like circular-shaped bald hair patches on multiple areas of the dog’s body including their belly. The patches typically have a crusty covering like dandruff. In serious cases, ringworm isn’t dry-looking. Instead, it appears as red, round-shaped patches of missing hair.
Below are pictures of what ringworm looks like on a dog, then further on how dogs get an infection, the signs, whether it spreads from dogs to humans, how to treat it, and most importantly, how to prevent re-infections.
All the pictures are in this video:
All dogs can get ringworm
Young, old, long-haired, or short-haired: any dog can develop ringworm. It’s a common infection as it’s very contagious. And contrary to what many think, ringworm isn’t one of the usual intestinal worms. It’s a fungal skin infection.
Sure, it may look like a worm curled up underneath a dog’s skin. But that’s simply how ringworm got its name. It’s not a worm, it’s a fungus.
While there are over thirty fungi species known to cause ringworm infection, only three are responsible for almost all ringworm cases in dogs: Microsporum gypseum, Microsporum canis, and Trichophyton mentragrophytes.
Research shows that the fungus Microsporum canis is the culprit in 70% of all ringworm infection cases in dogs.
The ringworm fungus lives on the outer layer of your dog’s skin. It doesn’t penetrate deep inside the skin. If your dog has this infection, you will notice circular-shaped bald hair patches on multiple areas like the ears, feet, face, chest, belly, nose, and claws.
The skin on the circular bald patches will be dry (with a brownish or grayish color) and look like it’s peeling off. In serious cases, ringworm may appear as red, bald hair patches with tiny pimples (in the shape of a ring) surrounding the inflamed spot.
These patches start out as the size of a pea and, if left untreated, spread out into wider circular-shaped patches.
The fungus causing the infection may determine how mild or serious the ringworm will appear. A dog’s immunity (whether weak or strong) will also influence the severity of the infection.
Though not life-threatening, ringworm can be uncomfortable as it may cause itchiness.
Ringworm infection can also attack the skin under your dog’s nails (or the skin bordering the nails). After some time, the nail will become discolored and too brittle.
Handy Hint: Here are the odds of you getting worms from your dog.
How do dogs get ringworm?
Dogs get ringworm at any point in their life because of how easily this infection spreads. Your dog can get it through any of the following ways:
- If they have bodily contact with a person suffering from ringworm.
- If they have bodily contact with a pet that already has ringworm.
- If they lie on or touch any objects contaminated by the ringworm fungus. For instance, if your dog sleeps on the same bed with someone or a pet infected by ringworm.
- If they get into contact with contaminated soil. The ringworm fungus ends up in the soil if an infected pet lies on the ground or simply “shakes off”, dropping some of the fungus-carrying fur.
While in the soil, the fungus can remain alive for close to 18 months! A healthy dog can easily pick up the fungus and develop a ringworm infection.
Most dogs contract ringworm from the dog park. There’s a high likelihood of them getting into contact with dogs carrying the fungus or playing on contaminated soil.
It’s also worth mentioning that some dogs may also have ringworm but are yet to show the obvious signs. If your dog interacts with such dogs at the park, they will get infected.
What ringworm does when on your dog’s body
Like every other fungal infection, the ringworm fungus must eat to survive on your dog’s body. And the problem is that as it feeds, it causes damage.
Ringworm feeds on a dog’s hair strands and a certain protein compound found on the fur and skin — keratin.
This protein keeps your dog’s hair, skin, and nails healthy and protects against damage. As the fungus eats up keratin and the hair strands, your dog’s fur will become brittle and fall, leaving round-shaped bald patches.
Feeding also gives the fungus energy to reproduce millions, if not thousands, of fungal spores on your dog’s body.
Think of these spores as dust particles of the ringworm fungus. If not treated, your dog will infect you and other pets because they will leave these spores everywhere.
Pro Tip: Always wear gloves when inspecting your dog’s body for ringworm. It’s also best to wash your hands afterward and disinfect the gloves.
Ringworm is a zoonotic infection, meaning dog parents can contract ringworm from their dogs.
If your dog is suffering from ringworm, you shouldn’t touch them. Plus, if they leave hair on your curtains, couch, carpet, kitchen counter, or clothes, you (and your guests) risk developing ringworm if you touch these objects.
What to do if you suspect your dog has ringworm infection
As much as it’s said that ringworm in dogs clears up on its own, waiting for it to simply vanish will only cause more harm.
For starters, it’s not known how long it can take for ringworm to disappear naturally.
Waiting means your dog will develop more bald patches before they start recovering, and their coat will look worse. They will also infect you and others within that waiting period.
Early treatment will help kill the fungal spores on your dog’s body, so your dog will have a better chance of becoming ringworm-free sooner than later.
If you’ve spotted what looks like ringworm on your dog, you should see the vet. They will perform diagnostic tests to confirm whether the skin infection is indeed ringworm.
Once they make a ringworm diagnosis, they will prescribe the most effective treatment that suits your dog’s case (if it’s a mild or severe infection). Vets often treat ringworm using the following:
- Anti-fungal oral medications
- Anti-fungal topical creams
- Antifungal dog shampoo
As your dog recovers from home, you shouldn’t discontinue the prescribed medication if your vet hasn’t asked you to — even if the missing hair has grown back. Otherwise, the infection will reappear in no time.
It can take a few or several weeks for your dog to heal from ringworm. As they recover from home, consider the following:
- Isolate them in a separate room so they don’t leave their ringworm-infested hair all over the house. Even better, opt for a room that has minimal furnishing so that cleaning time isn’t that hectic (it’s best if you clean that room daily to prevent hair-build up)
- Deep clean all the places in the house (and things) where your dog has been prior to the ringworm diagnosis. You should thoroughly vacuum every area that has traces of your dog’s hair and clean your vacuum cleaner with a disinfectant afterwards.
- Clean their bedding with a disinfectant, and also disinfect their toys. Your vet can recommend an effective disinfectant.
As discussed earlier, you will notice circular, dry-looking bald hair spots. These round-shaped patches may be red if your dog has a serious ringworm infection.
You should see the vet for professional treatment. Also, make sure to deep clean your house to get rid of your dog’s fungus-carrying fur. These stray hairs can cause re-infection.
Ringworm can show up anywhere on your dog’s body, but it mostly appears on the head, face, legs, tail, and around the nail skin.
The short answer is, highly contagious. If your dog has this infection, you will get infected if you touch them or anything that has their hair.
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