What Does Ringworm Look Like on a Dog? Pictures, Treatments and More.

By the Easy Protect Team!

If you think your dog has ringworm, you need to proceed carefully, as it can quickly spread to humans, too!


This article will help you diagnose ringworm, and you'll learn about the treatment process.


Because even though ringworm isn't too harmful at the start (like in humans), ringworm can lead to much larger issues and spread if you don't get your dog treated. Guided by our Aussie Vet, Dr. Tegan, here's what you need to know about ringworm and how to treat it. 


First, what is ringworm?


Ringworm is not a worm; it's a fungus (confusing, right).


Ringworm is a fungus that produces 'seeds' that are fungal spores, which, like other fungal spores, can live for many years around your home or local dog parks. This makes ringworm challenging to get rid of, especially if your dog has a history of skin issues.

Ringworm can spread quickly from a ringworm carrier. Here are a few common ways ringworm is transmitted:

  • Close contact with an infected person or animal, where skin-to-skin contact occurs.

  • Sharing towels, clothing, bedding and much more.

  • It's essential to know that household items like brushes, pet clothing, water bowls, towels, and furniture can become contaminated with viruses or bacteria and potentially cause infection. So, it's best to maintain good hygiene practices and regularly clean and disinfect these items to reduce the risk of transmission.


The trickiest part with ringworm is that it takes only one spore to create an entire infection and outbreak. That's why oral medication such as flea, tick, and worming products Nexgard Spectra don't cover ringworm because it's a fungal infection - not a parasite. 


Please see here if you need parasite protection from fleas, ticks and worms. 


However, there is some good news when it comes to transmitting ringworm. Only broken skin on your dog can be infected. And there are several treatments for ringworm - just like for human ringworm.


Healthy skin on your dog is not so acceptable to ringworm infections - so keeping fleas and ticks off your dog is a great preventative plan in the first place to keep your dog's skin healthy.


But again, ringworm is not a worm. It's a fungus.


What is ringworm in a dog?

Like humans, ringworm is a fungal infection that reflects a raised ring shape. And like in people, ringworm causes a few circular patches of raised red, irritated skin - hence the name. 


Ringworm isn't a roundworm; it just looks like one.


Like humans, puppies can be more susceptible to ringworm than adult dogs. Dogs with weakened immune systems or other parasites are also at risk.

Keeping your dog's skin healthy and free of scratches or sores can also reduce the likelihood of ringworm. Consider using a service like Easy Protect to protect your dog against biting parasites like fleas that can open up your dog's skin.


An example of ringworm patches.
©NathalieMarran on Shutterstock.com 

What does ringworm look like on a dog?


In people, ringworm lesions appear as a red circle on the skin, hence its name.

Ringworm in a dog (or puppy) is quite similar, as it appears in a ring-shaped circular shape on the skin, causing the skin to go red, lose hair around the area and swell up. 


Further below is a close-up picture of a ringworm on a dog.


Ringworm in your dog might not initially present itself, so keeping your eye out for the following symptoms is essential:

  • An inflamed, red skin rash with sometimes a crusty coating in a circular pattern

  • Scales or scaly patches that look like dandruff

  • Patches of hair loss from your dog scratching

  • Dry hair or brittle hair that is more prone to breakage than normal

  • Darkened skin around the area (also called hyperpigmentation)

  • Reddened skin around the area (also called erythema)

  • Raised nodular lesions or scabs on your dog's skin


If you notice any of these symptoms of ringworm in your dog or pup, contact a vet immediately.


Here are a few photos of ringworms on dogs. The second image is zoomed in. However, unlike the photo, please use gloves if you touch any areas near your dog and always wash your hands thoroughly after inspecting.


NOTE: Always wear gloves when inspecting your dog!!
©pawsomeguy on Shutterstock.com

Dog hotspot vs. ringworm.


If you think your dog has ringworm, seeing a vet is necessary. One reason is that ringworm can often look like a hotspot, and your Vet must diagnose the area. The treatments are completely different.


Below is a photo of a hotspot. Hotspots start as a tiny red bump, which many Australian dog parents often mistake for a flea or insect bite. You might also see your dog scratching, licking or biting the spot, which can lead to a sore or lesion. It's these spots that grow and become an infected hotspot, which at this point, can be deadly. 


Seeing a Vet for both ringworm and a hotspot is essential. Your Vet can recommend the right effective treatments.


Ringworms and hotspots can often look similar, especially on dogs with thick coats. Be sure to consult your local Vet for diagnosis.

Example of a dog hotspot.

Do you need to see a Vet for your dog's ringworm?

Yes, proper diagnosis for ringworm is a must, as there are multiple topical and oral treatments, and your Vet will need to confirm the area is not a hotspot or other condition, too.


If you notice any signs of ringworm or the symptoms above of ringworm, please get in touch with your Vet immediately. Leaving a dog with ringworm can cause irreparable damage, and common ringworm treatments will be more effective the sooner the area is treated by a Vet.


How does a Vet diagnose your dog for ringworm?

If you suspect your dog has ringworm, it's important to go straight to your Vet. A Vet diagnosis often requires a thorough clinical examination and testing. 


While each Vet has their diagnosis method, they will likely use one of the below methods:

  • Visual observation. Your Vet will likely be able to detect ringworm through a visual inspection. They are looking for scaling and skin lesions typically resulting from ringworm.

  • The wood's lamp. This unique ultraviolet lamp used by Vets has a yellow-green fluorescence light. The fluorescent material your Vet is looking for is not the ringworm but excretion on hair shafts. While this test will help diagnose ringworm, a negative result with the wood lamp does not rule out ringworm.

  • Using a microscope. This is a common diagnosis method in Australia, and your Vet may take a small hair sample around the area and put it under a microscope to see the fungal culture. Your Vet is looking for fungal spores on your dog's hair shafts.


Your Vet might also perform additional testing to rule out diseases like Sarcoptes or Demodex mites.

A medical professional using the wood's lamp. 
©GaiBru on Shutterstock.com 


How do you treat your dog for ringworm?


Note: This advice and article is for informational purposes only. This information is not medical advice specific to your dog's condition. Please see your Vet before buying or using any of the below treatments.


If your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm by your Vet, various suitable treatments are available. Your Vet will guide you on the best solution for your dog's unique ringworm infection, including how advanced the ringworm is and if your dog is taking any other medications. 


The ringwood treatment process, however, is usually relatively straightforward.


First, your Vet will choose to treat the ringworm with either a topical medication applied directly to the skin or an oral antifungal medication. Both topical and oral anti-fungal drug ringworm treatments are available in Australia (further information below).


Itraconazole, Griseofulvin and Terbinafine are the three most common active ingredients for treating dog ringworm - and your Vet will likely recommend a product with one of these active ingredients, or in some cases, recommend alternative anti-fungal drugs to dog owners.


Your Vet may also recommend steps to remove ringworm from your home, including thorough cleaning and decontamination. 


Please continue your dog's treatments for as long as the Vet recommends, as even areas with no visual ringworm sign can still be infected.

An oral ringworm treatment.

Topical ringworm treatments for dogs

Topical ringworm treatments are creams or ointments applied directly to your dog's skin and infected area. Your Vet may also recommend shaving the area around the infected area(s) to apply the variety of lotions recommended.


Many Vets also recommend washing your dog two times a week with an antifungal shampoo, paying attention to circular or ring-shaped pattern where the ringworm is. 


Of course, always wash your hands after using any treatments, including shampoos. Your Vet may also look at your dog's diet and recommend a nutrient-rich food or supplement that's minerals and vitamin-rich to aid your dog's immune system and recovery.


Oral ringworm treatments for dogs

Oral ringworm treatments are another common way of curing ringworms. Most products will use one of three active ingredients: Terbinafine, Griseofulvin or Itraconazole. 


If oral medications are a bit tricky with your dog, you can always try hiding it in cheese or food - that usually does the job!


Please note that ringworm oral medications can take six weeks, sometimes even more time, to work. Your Vet will do a follow-up test to ensure your dog's ringworm is gone before stopping treatment.


Like topical treatments, always wear gloves when handling oral ringworm treatments and wash your hands thoughtfully after treatment.


Can you catch ringworm from your dog?


Yes, you can catch ringworm from your dog.


Catching ringworms by touching an infected dog is no different to catching ringworms from another person. Saying that, ringworm needs broken, scratched, a wound or graze to penetrate the skin - or conditions like eczema can leave you open to ringworm infection.


But just because your dog has ringworm does not mean you or your family will, too. It's a good idea to do a sound check of all humans in your house. 


People with weak immune systems also need to be more cautious, including younger children, the elderly, people under treatment or transplants and more - as they are more acceptable to fungi like ringworm.


If you believe your dog has ringworm, don't let your children or anyone with illness touch your dog, And wear gloves when treating your dog's ringworm at all times!


If you haven't picked up ringworm from your dog by the time your Vet diagnoses them, you likely won't get it and you can be fairly sure you don't have a contaminated environment at home. 

How to prevent ringworm in dogs?


Good hygiene is by far the best way to prevent ringworm. 


This ringworm prevention includes:

  • Frequently washing your dog's bed, toys, bowls, blankets, collars

  • Wash any other items your dog often comes into contact with

  • Wash your dog with an off-the-shelf antifungal shampoo a few times a year. Just be sure it's a mild treatment.

We should also mention certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to ringworm. This includes puppies, older dogs, and dogs with immune system issues. 


It is also suggested that hunting dog breeds like Jack Russels, Boston Terriers, and other terrors are more prone to ringworm. So, if you own a hunting dog breed, watch for ringworm closely!


If you need more information on ringworm, we suggest contacting your local Aussie Vet, as they may be aware of any local outbreaks - which can happen through dog parks, doggy daycare centres, etc.


If you are after parasite protection, check out Easy Protect. We deliver Australia's best product, Nexgard Spectra, to your door for less.


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About the Author, Dr. Tegan and our petcare team.

Over 1,000 dogs a week go to Aussie Vet clinics - from owners forgetting their dog's parasite prevention. That's why Dr Tegan helped start Easy Protect, and her team love writing helpful articles for Aussie dog owners.

About the Author, Dr. Tegan and our petcare team.

Over 1,000 dogs a week go to Aussie Vet clinics - from owners forgetting their dog's parasite prevention. That's why Dr Tegan helped start Easy Protect, and her team love writing helpful articles for Aussie dog owners.