Ringworm is a fungus called dermatophytes. Dermatophtytes means ‘plants that live on the skin’. In the past, because of the circular lesions made by the fungi they were thought to be caused by worms, hence the name ringworm. The fungi live on the surface of the skin and in the skin follicles feeding on dead skin tissue and hair. There are three different types of fungus that can cause ringworm, but the most predominant ones found on dogs and cats is microsporum canis.
The usual symptom is a round hairless lesion. The characteristic “ring” that we see on humans doesn’t always appear as a ring on dogs. This lesion will grow in size and often become irregular in shape. The fungi cause the hair shafts to break off and this results in patches of hair loss. Ringworm are commonly found on the face, ears, tail and paws. The lesions are scaly and may or may not be itchy; often the skin is reddened and inflamed.
Transmission of ringworm can happen by direct contact with another infected animal or person. It can be passed from dogs to cats and vice versa, and from pets to humans and from humans to pets. The fungal spores can live in the environment for a long time and can be found in carpets, bedding, grooming equipment, etc. and can infect your dog when it comes into contact with them. 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.
In rare cases ringworm can be spread by contact with infected soil. The fungus can live for months in soil if the nutrients are right.
You can contract ringworm by touching an animal with ringworm. Ringworm can spread while petting or grooming dogs or cats. You can also get ringworm from cows, goats, pigs and horses.
Healthy adult dogs usually have a resistance to ringworm. Young dogs and puppies are more susceptible because their immune system hasn’t fully developed. Many dogs are carriers of ringworm but show no symptoms. They can, however, infect other animals or humans.
To diagnose ringworm your vet will need to do one of the following tests. It is not possible by just looking at the skin to make the diagnosis.
Wood’s Lamp – An ultra violet lamp also known as a black light. Your vet may use this as 50% of microsporum canis will glow under the lamp.
Microscopic diagnosis – Your vet may look at part of the hair or skin from the lesion under a microscope.
Culture – Your vet may decide to take a scraping from the lesion and send it away to the laboratory to see what the culture grows.
If no treatment is carried out, ringworm will run its course in two to four months and the symptoms will resolve themselves. However, treatment is recommended to save your dog from suffering any longer than necessary and to cut down the period of time that they are contagious.
Recommended treatment can consist of one or more – or all – of the following:
- An anti-fungal drug which inhibits fungal reproduction, usually taken over the course of 5-7 days.
- Lime sulphur dip is very often beneficial. The dip, mixed with water, should be given twice a week and can be done at home.
NOTE: Be prepared that Lime sulphur smells very much like rotten eggs or stink bombs. And it will stain clothing and jewellery, and cause temporary yellowing of your dog’s hair.
- Decontaminate the environment. Use bleach mixed at 1:10 on any surface that you can. It will kill 80% of the spores. Vacuum on a daily basis and, if possible, steam clean carpets and furnishings which will kill off a large number of the fungus spores. Wash your dog’s bedding in very hot water and use a bleach solution to clean the dog kennel. If your dog is an indoors dog try to confine him to only one room of the house.
Getting rid of fleas on your dog alone does not treat the overall flea problem. During the flea cycle only about 5% of fleas are actually living on your dog or cat. The other 95% of fleas are living in your house or yard. That is why it is so important to get rid of the fleas and in your house and on your dog at the same time.
Set aside a couple of hours to tackle the flea problem. It is important to treat all of your pets and your home on the same day.
STEP 1 – GET RID OF THE FLEA INFESTATION IN THE HOUSE
The first step is to vacuum. It has already been mentioned that only 5% of the fleas are living on your pet and that the other 95% are living in your house or yard. If you have dogs that live inside or regularly come inside the house you need to get rid of the vast majority of the fleas quickly and easily. You can achieve this by vacuuming them up. The vibrations from vacuuming also stimulates the fleas to emerge from their cocoons and they will be exposed to the insecticide that will later be used. Flea eggs fall randomly wherever your dog or cat goes, but once the eggs hatch they become larvae and have hair like bristles on the outside of their body that enable them to move around. This allows them to move to places they feel most comfortable in. They like to get out of the light and into crevices, so when you vacuum pay lots of attention to places such as near base boards, cracks in floorboards and under furniture, beds and rugs.
STEP 2 – SPRAYING INSECTICIDE FLEA TREATMENT FOR YOUR HOUSE AND BACKYARD
You will need to purchase a flea spray containing IGR (Insect Growth Regulator). It is recommended that you remove any living creature from the house while spraying, including any pet fish or reptiles. After spraying the insecticide try not to vacuum for about a week if possible as the IGR component will have a residual effect.
Fleas can live outside the house in sand and gravel. Spray patios, under decks, verandas, kennels, crevices, along fence lines and anywhere your dog sleeps. It is not usually necessary to spray the entire backyard or areas which are exposed to sunlight as the larvae avoid bright places. The flea spray you use in your house is fine to use in the yard too.
Next wash all of your pets bedding and soft toys. Shake them well and hang them in the sunlight to dry.
STEP 3 – USING A FLEA PRODUCT ON YOUR DOG
The latest treatments are top-spots, which are much safer for both pets and humans. These are applied to the skin, usually between the shoulder blades and disperse through the dog’s coat. Usually applied monthly they include Advantage, Frontline and Revolution. Most top-spot flea treatments can be used on puppies from 8 weeks of age.
Fleas feed on your pet’s blood and make your dog uncomfortable A heavy infestation of fleas can cause your pet to become anaemic and unwell. Flea infestations have been known to kill puppies. Some individual animals are allergic to flea saliva and this causes the pet misery with constant scratching and self-mutilation. The most common allergy dermatitis in cats and dogs is flea allergy. Fleas also spread tapeworm from one animal to another.
If after two weeks you still have a lot of fleas you will need to repeat the 3-STEP treatment again in your house and on your dog. Keep an eye out for tell-tale scratching and act quickly if you suspect even a single flea.