Does my dog have ringworm?

Ringworm is a rather misleading infection that can affect humans and animals. It was once thought that the crusty and reddened circular lesions on the skin are curled worms hence the name ringworm. Ringworm is actually a fungal infection and not caused by worms as the name implies. This is a highly contagious disease. If you have ringworm, it is highly possible that your dog can have ringworm too as this fungal disease can be transmitted easily to pets and vice versa.

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Causes of ringworm

Ringworm is a fairly common skin diseases caused by various species of fungi. Epidermophyton, Trichophyton and Microsporum are the three main types of fungus that cause ringworm. Microsporum fungi cause canine ringworm. These fungi live on the skin particularly on the hair follicles and feed on dead tissues. Bald patches will appear when the hair shafts are destroyed.

Symptoms

Small hairless round lesions are the classic signs of this fungal disease. These bald patches with scaly centers are often found on the head, face, ears, tail and paws of the dog.  The lesion that starts as a small round spot would grow in size and take on a different shape as the disease progresses.

How is ringworm transmitted?

Ringworm can be transmitted directly through skin to skin contact. A dog with ringworms can transmit the disease to other pets while playing. Dogs are cuddled and petted thus the fungal spores on the dog’s hair can be transmitted to the human family. Ringworm can live in the environment for months. A dog playing in contaminated soil will start to show signs of the disease 10 to 12 days after exposure.

Diagnosis

The signs of ringworm can be confused as the signs of demodectic mange. As the ringworms are not always spherical, the bald patches can be mistaken for sign of autoimmune disease too. A vet consult would be necessary to accurately diagnose the disease. The wood’s lamp is commonly used in diagnosing ringworm. Under a specialized black light some species of the fungi will glow a fluorescent color. This method though is not very accurate as only about half of the species of microsporum canis will glow. Moreover, the infected dog may be carrying the spores on the coat without having lesions. Another method of diagnosing ringworm is to examine the location of the bald patches. Hair will be plucked from the periphery of the lesion and examined under a microscope. This method has about 70% accuracy. The most accurate method of diagnosing ringworm is to perform a culture to examine fungal growth. To obtain a sample, the scales and crust will be scraped from the lesion.

Treatment

Ringworm is not a serious disease. Some dog owners would not do anything as the lesions would heal on its own. However, the healing process will take time. Treatment in the form of antifungal topical medications, dips, shampoos will be necessary to prevent the spread of infection to other pets and to the human family. 

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