Contrary to what its name implies, ringworm is not a worm at all--which is a little less disconcerting for most of us! It is, in fact, a fungal infection from a group of fungi called dermatophytes, and is also commonly called Tinea. It gets its misleading name because it makes a ring-like pattern of red marks on the skin. Humans, dogs, cats and other animals all can get ringworm, but can they transmit it to each other?
Can Dogs Get Ringworm From Humans?
Your dog can get ringworm from you, and you can get it from your dog. It is much more common, however, for humans to give it to other humans, and dogs to dogs. Infection occurs from direct contact with skin or infected materials, such as towels, locker room surfaces, or bedding. If you, or your dog, contract ringworm, the good news is, that it is quite treatable, without complications, and you can take precautions to limit transmitting it between you and your pet.
Does My Dog Have Ringworm?
Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection that, unfortunately, you and your dog can share. It is not serious, however, and when symptoms appear you and your furry friend can get treatment to relieve the condition. Symptoms of ringworm include:
A ring of red scaly bumps on the skin
Red hairless patches on the skin
Flaky red skin, or sores not always in the form of a ring
Thick, yellow brittle claws, if nails are infected
Itching, scratching and biting at irritated skin
Can be asymptomatic but still contagious
Ringworm is very contagious and spreads by direct contact or contact with items that the infected dog has touched. It can linger on bedding, furniture, food bowls, carpets and surfaces, chew toys, personal items, and grooming tools for several months. Ringworm fungus especially likes warm, moist places where it thrives. It is commonly acquired in kennels where many dogs are present, usually including asymptomatic carriers. Mature dogs and people may be resistant to the infection, but a large exposure, a break in the skin, or an impaired immune system may result in an infection taking hold. Puppies and children are more likely to develop the condition.
Incubation period from exposure to infection ranges from a few days to a few weeks.
Your veterinarian may diagnose ringworm infection in your dog based on symptoms, especially if the characteristic ring pattern is visible. Ringworm infections may be diagnosed with ultraviolet light that causes the infected skin to glow yellow-green under the light. The best tool for diagnosis is to take a sample of skin and culture it to see if the ringworm fungus grows. Ruling out other causes of rash may also be required, and additional blood and urine tests may be necessary.
Read more on this condition and get advice from our in-house vets at
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Ringworm?
When an animal or person is infected with ringworm, precautions should be taken to minimize spread to other people or animals in the home. Washing hands, wearing gloves, and temporarily isolating the individual are recommended to reduce spread of the fungal infection. Bedding, furniture, carpets and personal items should be cleaned thoroughly.
Topical antifungal creams, ointments, and shampoos will be prescribed to be administered to infected areas, along with systemic medications administered orally. Shaving the hair in infected areas may make topical treatment more effective. Oral antifungals, like griseofulvin, itraconazole, and terbinafine are commonly prescribed to ensure eradication of the fungal infection. Oral and topical medication is usually continued for several weeks. All dogs and other pets in the household will probably require treatment. Family members should also be observed carefully in case they develop symptoms and require treatment as well. The condition remains contagious during treatment, and precautions to avoid transmission should be continued during treatment. Periodic ringworm cultures will be taken to determine if treatment has been successful. Although recurrence is common, and ringworm can require multiple treatments and aggressive environmental cleaning to get under control, infection is not serious and affected pets should recover without incident.
A solution of chlorine bleach and water is useful for cleaning surfaces where ringworm spores may have been shed by your dog.
How is Ringworm Similar in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?
Many forms of ringworm are zoonotic, that is, common to several species and transmissible between them.
Dogs, cats, and people all share several forms of ringworm and can transmit it to each other
Infection is spread by direct contact or contact with personal items or an environment where ringworm spores have shed and thrived.
Infection is often manifest as a ringlike rash of flaky skin.
The disease is not serious and there are no complications in dogs or people
Antifungal medications successfully treat ringworm infections
Mature animals and people tend not to be as susceptible to infection as younger individuals
How is Ringworm Different in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?
There are some differences in how ringworm affects different animals.
Some forms of ringworm infection are species-specific and not transmissable between different types of animals and people
People are more likely to get infected from other people and dogs from dogs, although transmission between people and dogs is possible also.
Dogs tend to get hair loss at infection site as a primary symptom, while red bumps may appear on human skin where no hair is present
In people, it is common to get ringworm on the feet from infected surfaces, especially in locker rooms; this is also called athlete's foot.
Fluffy, a 9-month-old Bichon Frise went to a new grooming salon. Unfortunately, so had an asymptomatic carrier of ringworm, and grooming tools used on the infected dog were not adequately cleaned between grooming sessions. Fluffy soon had round hairless patches on her skin. Although the unsightly rashes were not bothering her, they certainly bothered her owner, who immediately recognized the signs of ringworm from her childhood growing up on a farm. Their veterinarian gave Fluffy oral and topical antifungal medication, which her owner carefully applied with gloves, and the owner washed and disinfected the entire home. Fluffy’s owner fortunately did not get infected, as she took precautions to minimize exposure, and probably had some resistance to the fungal infection from her childhood farm experiences. Fluffy went back to the vet for a repeat culture in a month, and showed negative for ringworm with no remaining symptoms. A repeat culture a few weeks later also showed no sign of infection, so Fluffy was pronounced fungus free!