You might think by the name that a dog ringworm infection is caused by a common dog worm much like roundworm, heartworm, hookworm, etc.  Ringworm is actually a fungal infection that can have an effect on your dog’s health is well its appearance.

Dog Ringworm Symptoms

If you see a small, hairless area on your dog that has pustules and the skin looks scaly, the dog probably has a dog ringworm infection.  Or you might notice the dog scratching itself a lot – another sign it could be ringworm infected.

If this initial ringworm area is not treated, it will get bigger overtime.  The most common areas for ringworm lesions in dogs are its legs, head and tail.

Dog Ringworm Infection

Ringworms begin as spores and are transmitted by direct contact with an infected animal or contact with some item that has been contaminated with ringworm spores.  Ringworm spores can be on infected grooming equipment, in a contaminated boarding facility or in just about any environment the dog has visited.

Dogs are creatures of the outside, and they can get into anything.  This makes them vulnerable to pick up the ringworm spores from their surroundings – animal burrows or an already infected animal.

Dog ringworm infections seem to be more common in puppies and older dogs.

Dog Ringworm Diagnosis

There are several ways to diagnose a dog ringworm infection.  One way is through the use of a specialized black light.  Several species of the ringworm fungus will glow a fluorescent color when exposed to a black light.  It is estimated that up to 50% of the common species of ringworm will not fluoresce under a black light.  A healthy dog may have ringworm spores but not an actual infection.

Another way to identify a dog ringworm infection is to examine hairs on the periphery of the lesion under a microscope using a preparation of potassium hydroxide solution to make them more visible.

The best and most accurate way to identify a ringworm infection is by culturing scales and crust from the dog’s skin and coat.  This is a simple test that your veterinarian can perform.

Treating A Dog Ringworm Infection

In healthy dogs and puppies, most small, isolated ringworm lesions will heal on their own within 4 months.  If the lesions are more severe, the area around them should be clipped down close to the skin.  The lesions can then be treated topically twice a day with an anti-fungal medication.  Popular anti-fungal medications include miconazole cream, Lotrimin cream and a 1% chlorhexidine ointment.  For more severe cases you may want to also use an anti-fungal shampoo or dip to rid your dog of the ringworm infection.

An alternative treatment option is to use oral anti-fungal agents.  One of these, griseofulvin, has historically been the drug of choice.  More recently, ketoconazole and itraconazole have been used successfully.  Because of their potential toxicity, all of these oral agents must be given only under the close supervision of a veterinarian.  These oral anti-fungal medications also need to be given for several months.  And Griseofulvin should not be used with breeding or pregnant dogs.

Preventing Dog Ringworm Infections

There are no reliable vaccines currently available that will prevent your dog from contracting a dog ringworm infections.  The best defense against ringworm is to make sure its grooming and boarding facilities and veterinary clinics are free of ringworm spores.  It is also important that you keep your house clean, as well as your dog’s playthings.  Some specialists believe that ringworm spores can hide in blankets or carpets and live there for as long as two years.  Make sure you vacuum carefully all the rugs and carpets in your house, especially those used by the dog.  This can keep ringworm spores from re-infecting the dog.

A dog ringworm infection is a fungal infection and not an intestinal worm.  It will not threaten your dog’s life, but can certainly affect your dog’s comfort and appearance.  If you dog does contract a ringworm infection, is not difficult to treat.

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