Has your pet been diagnosed with ringworms? If he has, then it’s perfectly normal for you to be concerned about infecting other household members as well. But are they contagious to humans? They are. Children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are found to be more vulnerable. The good news, however, is ringworms are treatable and preventable. Keep on reading to find out how.
What is ringworm?
Ringworms, contrary to its name, is not caused by worms. It’s a fungal infection caused by dermatophytes. This is where the medical term dermatophytosis or ringworm infections came from. Dermatophytes are known to cause superficial infections – so called because they only occur on the surface of the skin. In dogs, the ringworm fungi grow by feeding on keratin found in the outermost layer of the skin, hair, and nails. This causes hair loss and claws becoming brittle – one of the many symptoms of ringworm in dogs.
Three common fungal species affect dogs, namely Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Microsporum canis is the most common one accounting for 70% of ringworm cases. 20% are caused by Microsporum gypseum. 10% are caused by Trichophyton mentagrophytes.
Generally, there are a lot of species of dermatophytes. Some of them are species-specific. Some of them are zoonotic. As said, fungi that cause ringworms in dogs are considered zoonotic because they can be passed on to humans. What are the symptoms of ringworms?
The obvious sign for ringworms in both dogs and humans is the red skin lesion in the shape of a ring. (They weren’t called ringworms for anything.) But the red lesion can be difficult to see in dogs because of their fur. More so, the lesions may not always appear to be circular. When the lesion expands, it turns into an irregular shape and become scabby.
Additionally, ringworms aren’t that common. You may see a lot of hair loss patches on your dog but other skin conditions also show the same symptoms. Nevertheless, if you suspect your dog has ringworms take him to see the veterinarian. He can diagnose ringworms through different tests. Some of the tests are:
- Physical examination
- Wood’s lamp
- Direct examination under a microscope
Some of the symptoms of ringworm are the following:
- The appearance of bald scaly patches
- Circular patches of hair loss
- Broken hair
- Acne-like bumps on the skin
- Brittle nails
While rare, asymptomatic carriers are possible. They are the most dangerous as they can spread ringworm to animals and people without showing any clinical signs. Additionally, red lesions can appear in any part of your dog’s body but they are more common in the face, ears, tail, and feet.
An appearance of a red circular lesion is an indication of ringworms. For dogs, ringworms aren’t usually itchy. But for humans, this is not the case. The rash may become itchy.
Other symptoms also include:
- A scaly, ring shape area
- A round, flat patch of itchy skin
- Overlapping rings
- A clear or scaly area inside the ring
Ringworms are also sometimes referred to as athlete’s foot or jock itch.
How is it transmitted?
A person can get infected with ringworms when he comes into contact with an infected dog, person, or a contaminated surface or object. Any surface can harbor “infectious seeds” called spores when your infected dog comes in direct contact with it. These spores are present in the hair follicle and skin cells of dogs making them extremely transmissible. They can stay in grooming tools, dog beds, food bowls, carpet, and furniture for up to 18 months! How crazy is that?
The good news for us, however, is that touching a spore doesn’t necessarily translate to an infection. (Phew!) Only those with broken skin like wounds, scratch, graze, or suffering from a skin condition like eczema can be infected. Young children, elderly people, or people with weak immune systems may also be at risk. The same applies to dogs as well. Puppies, elderly dogs, and dogs with health conditions are also at risk. But generally, a dog with healthy skin cannot catch a ringworm infection.
Treatment for Ringworm
A combination of topical antifungal treatment, oral antifungal medication, and environmental decontamination is used. When your veterinarian diagnoses your dog for ringworms, he will prescribe a topical treatment. This comes in creams, ointment, or medicated shampoo to treat the infection. He may also recommend shaving the affected areas or clipping all your dog’s hair to speed up the recovery process.
Oral medications may also be necessary to eradicate the infection for good. Sometimes the treatment will last for at least six weeks or maybe longer. It is also imperative not to stop giving oral medications even if he is not showing any more signs. Always follow your vet’s prescribed treatment period. If you have other pets, inform your veterinarian too.
While medicines are potent, it is not enough to completely get rid of the fungi. Other household members can be at risk of getting the infection as long as the spores aren’t removed. For many dog owners, cleaning up the hairs on the couch and carpets is a bit of a challenge. However, when your dog has ringworms, hairs are a source of spores, making them dangerous. Regularly vacuuming dog hair from the carpets and couch at least once a day can help reduce the risk of spreading.
The treatment for humans depends on where the ringworm is. Cases like athlete’s foot or jock itch can be treated with an over-the-counter medication like an antifungal cream or lotion. Oral medications may be necessary for ringworms in the scalp. If the infection still exists after treatment, a trip to the doctor is needed.
- Wash your hands after handling your pet, especially during the treatment period. Use gloves and an apron if necessary. Change your clothes afterward.
- Restrict your pet in an easily cleaned room. This would allow him to be isolated from other pets, if you have them, as well.
- Disinfect surfaces. You can use a water and bleach solution or a regular disinfectant.
- Throw away any toy or beddings that are hard to clean.
- Regularly clean blankets, food bowls, and dog beds
- Vacuum the house regularly.
- Keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. Fish oils contain Omega-3 fatty acids that promote healthy skin for your dog. You can check it out here on Best Fish Oil For Dogs.
Ringworms are considered to be zoonotic. It can be passed on from our pets to us through spores. Children, elderly people, and those with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to infection. However, this does not exempt us from getting it either. Spores coming into contact with wounds or scratches can cause ringworms. Fortunately, ringworms are easy to treat and highly preventable. Treating your infected dog, disinfecting the environment, and practicing good hygiene are the best ways to prevent ringworms.
Also Read: Can You Get Scabies From A Dog?