NOTE: This article is for general information only. Individuals should seek independent medical advice from their own doctor regarding this disease and any questions regarding human conditions should be directed towards the appropriate human medical practioners
What is ringworm, and what causes it?
Ringworm is a skin disease caused by a fungus. Because the lesions are often circular, it was once thought to be caused by a worm curling up in the tissue. However, the condition has nothing to do with a worm.
There are several fungal species affecting dogs which can cause the disease that we call ringworm. These may also affect humans. The fungi live in hair follicles and cause the hair shafts to break off at the skin line. This usually results in round patches of hair loss. As the fungus multiplies, the lesions may become irregularly shaped and spread over the dog’s body.
How long does it take to get it?
The incubation period is 10-12 days. This means that following exposure to the fungus, about 10-12 days will pass before any lesions occur.
How is ringworm diagnosed?
Diagnosis is made in one of 3 ways:
- 1. Identification of the typical “ringworm” lesions on the skin
- 2. Fluorescence of infected hairs under a special light (however, not all the species of fungi fluoresce)
- 3. Culture of the hair for the fungus. The last method is the most accurate, but it may take up to 2-3 weeks for us to obtain a result
How is it transmitted?
Transmission occurs by direct contact between infected and non-infected individuals. It may be passed from dogs to cats and visa versa. It may also be passed from dogs or cats to people and visa versa. If your child has ringworm, it may have been transmitted from your pet or from another child at school. Adult humans usually are resistant to infection unless there is a break in the skin (a scratch, etc.), but children are quite susceptible. If you or your family members have suspicious skin lesions, check with your family doctor.
Transmission may also occur from the infected environment, so-called fomite transmission. This is often the method of transmission between animals in a household when the same brushes and combs are used.
How is it treated?
There are several means of treatment. The specific method(s) chosen for your dog will depend on the severity of the infection, how many pets are involved, if there are children in the household, and how difficult it will be to disinfect your pets’ environment. We have indicated the measures most likely to be effective in this particular case.
- 1. Oral Medications.
- 2. Topicalantifungalmedication.
- 3. Baths using an antifungal shampoo.
What should I expect from treatment?
Treatment will not produce immediate results. The areas of hair loss will get larger before they begin to get smaller. Within 1-2 weeks, the hair loss should stop, there should be no new areas of hair loss, and the crusty appearance of the skin should subside and the skin look more normal. We will in any case wish to monitor progress. After at least two weeks, your dog should be checked again.
How long will my dog be contagious?
Infected pets remain contagious for about 3 weeks if aggressive treatment is used. Contagion will last longer if only minimal measures are taken or if instructions regarding treatment are not diligently followed. Minimising exposure to other dogs or cats and to your family members is recommended during this period.
I have heard that some dogs are never cured. Is this true?
When treatment is completed, ringworm should be cured. Although a carrier state can exist, this usually occurs because treatment is not long enough or aggressive enough or because there is some underlying disease compromising the immune system.