What Is Ringworm?
Ringworm is a fungus and can be misleading as it is not a worm, nor is it always round. It is named for the round, raised, red ring usually seen in human infections. Healthy adult humans are resistant to infection unless there is a break in the skin such as a scratch. Elderly people, young children, and adults with immune system weaknesses or skin sensitivities are susceptible to ringworm infection. If you or your family members have suspicious skin lesions, check with your family physician immediately.
How Is Ringworm in Dogs Spread?
Ringworm spreads through direct contact. This can happen when a dog comes in direct contact with an infected animal, person, or touches a contaminated object like a couch, comb, food bowls, bedding, or carpet. The fungal spores can remain viable for up to 18 months and typically spread through shedding or breaking of infected hairs.
How do you get Ringworm?
Anything that decreases the body’s ability to mount an effective immune response (such as young age, immunocompromising diseases, or immunosuppressive medications) increases the likelihood that your pet will develop ringworm. Environments that are crowded with animals (like a animal shelter or kennel), or where there is poor nutrition, poor management practices, and lack of an adequate quarantine period are at high risk of contracting ringworm. Finally, disruptions to the normal protective barrier of the skin, like wounds, flea infestation, Cushings, hypothyroidism, surgery, or alleriges increase a pet’s susceptibility to ringworm. It may also increase the potential for a more severe infection.
What does Ringworm look like?
In the dog, ringworm lesions usually appear as areas of hair loss that are roughly circular. As these circular lesions enlarge, the central area heals and hair may begin to regrow in the middle of the lesion. The affected hair shafts are fragile and easily broken. These lesions are not usually itchy, but sometimes they become inflamed and develop a scabby covering. In most cases, there are several patches of hair loss scattered throughout the body. Occasionally fungal infection of the nails may occur. The claws become rough, brittle and broken. These lesions can become infected with secondary bacteria found normally on the skin.
Some dogs may have ringworm fungi present in their hair or skin without showing any clinical signs of disease. These dogs can spread ringworm to other animals or people despite having no obvious skin lesions and are called “asymptomatic carriers.
Identification of the typical “ringworm” lesions on the skin is one method to diagnose ringworm but can be misleading. Fluorescence of infected hairs under a special ultraviolet light known as a Wood’s lamp can also be used. The preferred method for diagnosing ringworm is by fungal culture of a sample of hair or skin cells. This method is the most accurate. A positive culture can sometimes be confirmed within a couple of days, but in some cases the fungal spores may be slow to grow. Therefore, a suspected sample cannot be called negative for at least a month.
Can Other Animals Get Ringworm?
Ringworm infections can occur in all domesticated species of animals. Cats, guinea pigs, and rabbits are susceptible to ringworm and are also kept in your home as pets. Humans commonly get a form of it, called “athlete’s foot.” If you or a family member notices a rash on your body after your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm, contact your primary care physician.
How long does it take to get it?
The incubation period between exposure to ringworm and the development of lesions usually ranges from 7-14 days; some cases may take up to 21 days before signs of infection develop. Infected pets remain contagious for about three weeks if aggressive treatment is used. The ringworm will last longer and remain contagious for an extended period of time if only minimal measures are taken or if you are not faithful with the prescribed approach.
Treatment of Ringworm in Dogs
In mild cases, topical treatment may be all that is needed. Shaving a pet with a long coat can help. For more severe cases, oral anti-fungal drug may be used. Treatment often must continue for several months and should not be stopped until followup diagnostic testing shows that the dog is free of ringworm. If an underlying condition is thought to be playing a role in the dog’s development of ringworm, it should be addressed as well. It is also worthwhile restricting the dog to rooms of the house that are easy to clean. Environmental contamination can be minimized by thorough damp mopping or vacuum cleaning of all rooms or areas that your dog goes in daily. Spores may be killed with a solution of chlorine bleach and water (1:10). Wear disposable gloves and wash your skin and clothes after handling an infected pet. It is recommended to keep them isolated from other pets and people during this time.
If you suspect your pet has ringworm or have noticed hair loss and other usual skin lesions call Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008 or visit us at http://www.meadowlandsvethospital.com