How long does it take for ringworm to clear up in dogs? A Comprehensive Guide

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With so many parasites out there, it is tempting to lump ringworm in the same category as hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, and tapeworms. Despite its name, however, ringworm is not actually a worm—it is a fungus. This fungal infection is common all over the world and infects almost all species of domestic animals, including dogs, which is why dog owners should know the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for ringworm.

Ringworm, as the fungus is commonly called, is named for the round, raised, red ring appearance usually seen in human ringworm infections. Ringworm, scientifically known as dermatophytes, is a collection of pathogenic fungi. In dogs, 70 percent of ringworm cases are caused by the fungus Microsporum canis, 20 percent are caused by the fungus Microsporum gypseum, and just 10 percent are caused by Trichophyton mentagrophytes.

The fungus grows and lives in the outermost layer of skin and in the hair follicles of infected dogs, and occasionally in the nails. The infection is superficial, and in most cases only affects a few areas of the dog’s body. Puppies, senior dogs, and immunocompromised dogs sometimes suffer from more widespread ringworm infections.

What does ringworm in dogs look like?

In the dog, ringworm lesions usually appear as areas of hair loss (alopecia) 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 scattered throughout the body. Occasionally, fungal infections of the nails may occur. The claws become rough, brittle, and broken.

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.

Will my dog recover from a ringworm infection?

The majority of dogs, if treated appropriately, will recover from a ringworm infection. Symptoms may recur if the treatment is discontinued too early or is not aggressive enough (i.e., only topical treatment was used), or if the pet has an underlying disease compromising the immune system. Occasionally, despite appropriate treatment, the infection persists. In this situation, your veterinarian may have to try alternative anti-fungal drugs.

Ringworm in Dogs Symptoms, Causes and Treatment | DiscountPetCare

Many people are surprised to learn that ringworm in dogs is a skin condition caused by a fungus, not a worm—it’s named for the ring-shaped, scaly sores it often causes. While that may lessen the gross-out factor, it doesn’t make it any less of a problem. The fungal infection can get worse over time and is highly contagious. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment at an early stage when symptoms first appear.

Ringworm is caused by a type of fungi called dermophytes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40 different kinds of dermophytes can cause ringworm. The fungi live and feed on the top layers of skin, hair, and nails.

Ringworm is more common in cats, but dogs can also catch it. Dogs get ringworm from coming into contact with infected animals, people, dirt, or surfaces like bedding, furniture, or grooming tools.

Ringworm doesn’t infect every dog who’s exposed to it. “Typically, it’s hard for a ringworm infection to take hold in animals and humans with healthy skin and a robust immune system,” Allison Brys, DVM, co-medical director of VCA Sawmill Animal Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says. “But some factors can make dogs more vulnerable to ringworm.”