Ringworm in Dogs– What is it Really?

Contrary to it's name, it is not really a worm. It is a fungus called dermatophytes which basically means, “plants that live on the skin.” It got it's name from the circular lesions on the skin that were thought to have been inflicted by worms. This fungi lives on the skin surface and feeds on dead skin tissue and hair. Ringworm in dogs would look like a circular and hairless lesion. As it grows in size, it's shape may not remain circular anymore and becomes irregular.

Contraction happens by direct contact with an infected animal or person. It can be passed from dogs to cats, cats to dogs, animals to human and vice versa. The fungal spores can also live in for quite some time and can be found in carpets, grooming equipment, beddings and the like. There are also some rare cases where ringworms were spread through infected soil. It takes about 10-12 days after contact for the lesions to appear. Fortunately, these spores are easily killed with a solution of bleach and water. So better start cleaning those items.

If you have an adult dog, the chances of contracting ringworms are small. Ringworms in dogs are more often seen in puppies and young dogs. Many dogs are also carriers but show no symptoms of ringworms. However, they may infect another animal or human.

Vets have several tests where they can positively diagnose a ringworm in dogs. Just looking at the lesions won't do. They may use a black light as 50% of these spores will glow under the lamp. A vet may also use a microscope to look at a part of the hair or skin from the lesion. Lastly, he may scrape the lesion and send it to a laboratory to see what the culture grows.

In two to four months, if no treatment is done, the ringworm in dogs will run it's course and the problem will resolve itself. Treatment though is highly recommended to ease the suffering and to cut down the period of contamination. Your vet may prescribe Griseofulvin for your dog's health. It does have some side effects though so be sure to consult your vet before giving any medication. Griseofulvin inhibits fungal reproduction. Lime sulfur dips are also recommended. Dips should be given twice a week and can be performed either by your vet or at home. Please be aware that Lime Sulfur will stain clothing and jewelry and will cause temporary yellowing of the dogs hair. Ignore the bad odor and always follow your vet's instruction on mixing the dip.

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