Ringworm, a contagious fungal disease, can affect your dog’s skin, hair or claws. Usually caused by the Microsporum canis fungus, it spreads freely in the environment. Dogs with compromised immune systems or existing skin problems are more prone to infection. Ringworm symptoms include hair loss accompanied by itchy, scaly or reddened skin, usually around the face, ears, tail and paws. A fungal culture is needed for accurate diagnosis.
Many cases of canine ringworm will subside naturally without treatment, but the process takes several weeks. During this time, the fungus can spread to other members of the family—pets and people included.
Antiseptic soaps, such as Betadine skin cleanser or Nolvasan, will prevent a mild ringworm infection from turning into a bacterial skin infection. Wash the affected areas gently, and blot dry.
Tea tree oil is a topical antiseptic and anti-fungal. Pour it into a shallow dish, and dampen a cotton ball with the oil. Apply it directly to the affected areas. For very sensitive skin, tea tree oil can be diluted with warm water. It is safe and nontoxic.
Grapefruit seed oil is available in health food stores and from online retailers. It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and can be used to combat ringworm. Mix the oil with warm water, and apply it to the lesions. If the ringworm infection is widespread and not easily treated topically, grapefruit seed oil can be mixed with a mild shampoo. Bathe your dog thoroughly. Be sure to work the shampoo in between the toes—a favorite fungal hiding place.
Because ringworm is highly contagious, bathe any other pets that have been in contact with the infected dog, even if they are not showing symptoms.
Iodine and apple cider vinegar is a traditional folk remedy for ringworm. Vinegar contains acetic acid and, when combined with iodine, effectively cures ringworm infections. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that this combination of ingredients had a 67-percent cure rate for individuals suffering from tinea capitis, a ringworm infection of the scalp.
Ringworm can spread via contaminated bedding, dust and hair. Vacuum all living areas thoroughly, and wash bedding in hot, soapy water. Disinfect all grooming tools in a solution of one part bleach to thirty parts hot water. Dip the tools, and allow them to air dry.
Keep your dog’s skin and coat in top condition with regular grooming and a high-quality diet.
Kittens are the most common carriers of ringworm. Isolate any new arrivals until you are sure they are ringworm-free.