Although the name suggests otherwise, ringworm isn’t caused by a worm at all—but a fungus that can infect the skin, hair and nails. This highly contagious disease can lead to patchy areas of hair loss on a dog and can spread to other animals—and to humans, too.

Ringworm in detail

Ringworm Symptoms

Classic symptoms of ringworm in dogs include:

  • Skin lesions that typically appear on the head, ears, paws and forelimbs.
  • Ringworm can patchy, crusted, circular bald spots that sometimes look red in the center
  • In mild cases, there may be just a few broken hairs, while bad cases can spread over most of a dog’s body.
  • It’s also possible for a pet to carry the fungus and not show any symptoms whatsoever.

Dogs More Prone to Ringworm.

  • Puppies less than a year old are most prone to infection
  • Malnourished, immunocompromised and stressed dogs are also at a greater risk.
  • Ringworm can quickly spread in kennels, shelters and other places where there are many dogs in a close environment.

Diagnosing Ringworm

Because infection can potentially spread over a dog’s body and infect other animals and people, it is important that you see your vet for an accurate diagnosis if your pet is showing any signs of a skin problem.

  • A veterinarian may use an ultraviolet light to diagnose ringworm, or may examine a fungal culture taken from the affected area.

Treating Ringworm

Treatment of ringworm depends on the severity of the infection.

  • A veterinarian may prescribe a shampoo or ointment that contains a special medication to kill the fungus.
  • In some cases, oral medications are necessary.
  • It is important to treat your dog for as long as recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that reinfection won’t occur.

If your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with ringworm, he or she will explain what you must do to prevent the fungus from spreading to your other pets—and to the human members of the household. But keep in mind that if you have other pets, it’s likely that most of them have been exposed as well. Your veterinarian may recommend that you do the following:

  • Bathe all pets in the household with a medicated rinse or shampoo.
  • Wash the infected animals’ bedding and toys with a disinfectant that kills ringworm spores.
  • Discard items that are impossible to thoroughly disinfect (carpeted cat trees, etc.)
  • Frequently vacuum to rid the house of infected hairs and skin cells. (Yes, the fungus can survive on hair and skin that your dog sheds!)
  • Thoroughly wash your hands after you bathe or touch your cat.