Ringworm in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments

Four Minutes
Jan 03, 2023

Ringworm, or dermatophytosis, is most commonly identified by a raised red ring-shaped mark on the skin — hence the name. While the name ringworm may make you think of a parasite, like hookworm or roundworm, ringworm isn’t actually a worm at all, but a fungal infection.3

In dogs, ringworm typically lives in the outermost layer of the skin, fur, and nails. While it’s uncomfortable for your furry friend, ringworm is not life-threatening. So if your dog gets ringworm, no need to worry — it’s completely treatable.

How Do Dogs Get Ringworm?

Ringworm is highly contagious in both dogs and humans, and is considered a zoonotic infection — meaning it can be transmitted between animals and people. It’s spread through direct contact with the fungus, usually through shedding, playing, or sharing contaminated surfaces.

Ringworm’s fungal spores can live on surfaces (like your dog’s food bowl, brush, beds, etc.) for up to 18 months.4

Ringworm in Dogs Picture 

Jack Russell terrier with a red circular patch of ringworm on her rump

Ringworm in dogs usually appears as circular patches of hair loss, typically on multiple parts of the body. It can also appear red and inflamed, or gray and scaly.

Symptoms of Ringworm in Dogs

In addition to the tell-tale circular patch of hair loss, ringworm can cause lesions that can scab and ooze.

Because ringworm affects your pet’s skin and fur, the hair follicles can become brittle and break easily, helping spread the infection to surfaces in your home. Additionally, ringworm symptoms can sometimes extend to your pet’s claws, making them brittle and rough.

Ringworm typically isn’t itchy, so if you notice your dog scratching, they could be exhibiting symptoms of another skin condition, allergies, or another infection.

How is Ringworm Diagnosed in Dogs?

Confirming the presence of ringworm requires a veterinarian’s diagnosis. Usually, a vet will take cultures from the affected area and have it sent to the lab to test for presence of the fungus.

In some cases, vets will use an ultraviolet (UV) lamp, called a Wood’s lamp. In dogs, ringworm will glow a yellow-green color when it comes into contact with UV light. However, this isn’t always the most accurate, as not all species of the fungus react this way.

Even with this test, veterinarians will often still send out a culture to the lab for confirmation.

How to Treat Ringworm in Dogs

Once your pet has been positively diagnosed with ringworm, treatment for it generally follows a three-part regimen: topical treatment, oral medication, and environmental decontamination.

Topical treatment

The first step in treatment for ringworm in dogs is some form of topical therapy. Your vet will likely recommend a daily cream, ointment, or medicated shampoo to eliminate the surface infection. They may also recommend shaving the areas surrounding the infected patches to prevent further contamination. Topical treatments may take several months to clear up the infection.

Oral medication

Oral treatments, like antifungal medications, are used in tandem with a topical treatment to fight the infection. Oral meds often require at least 6 weeks to be successful, but, like topical treatments, can take up to several months.

Environmental decontamination

Because the fungal spores can live on surfaces and in your pet’s hair follicles for over a year, cleaning and removing pet hair from your home is an important treatment step. Make sure to regularly vacuum and disinfect surfaces to remove any contamination.

Pet Insurance Can Help Pay for Treatment

Ringworm is a fungal infection that’s common in both dogs and humans. If you notice a round red patch of skin on your furbaby, make sure to get them to the vet as soon as possible so you can get them feeling better and prevent further spread of the infection.

Ringworm is 100% treatable, but the vet bills and medication can rack up quickly. You can help offset the cost of treatment with a dog insurance policy through MetLife.1 Get a quote today and make sure your pet is covered in the event of an accident or illness.2

Protect your Dog

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

3 “Ringworm | Healthy Pets, Healthy People,” Center for Disease Control

4 “Ringworm in Dogs — Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention,” American Kennel Club

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