This article was updated on September 8th, 2023
Ringworm is a common skin condition that can affect dogs and is often easiest to notice on their belly area, although it can affect any area on their body. We, veterinarians, see skin conditions daily and ringworm is a frequent cause for skin lesions.
Young puppies, senior dogs or dogs on medication that suppresses their immune system are more likely to get ringworm than middle aged, healthy dogs. Cats can be carriers of ringworm and may spread ringworm to dogs and humans within the household.
As a responsible pet owner, it’s essential to recognize the signs, causes, and treatment options for ringworm. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to identify, treat, and prevent ringworm on your dog’s belly.
What is ringworm?
Ringworm is an infection on the superficial layers of the skin, caused by a variety of fungi, called dermatophytes. The name “ringworm” is confusing because it implies that a worm is the cause, but this is incorrect. Instead, the name comes from what the lesion looks like. They tend to form a red, ring-shaped area on the skin which resembles a worm curled up under the skin. It is the fungus that causes an inflammatory reaction that starts as a small circular area, that expands outwards forming a ring-like pattern.
What does ringworm look like on a dog’s belly?
On a dog’s belly, it can appear as this:
Ringworm on a dog’s belly is typically seen with the following signs:
1. Hair Loss: Circular areas of hair loss with a defined border are a hallmark of ringworm. The center often clears up, creating a ‘ring’ appearance. Not all the affected areas have the characteristic ring shape, there may just be irregularly shaped, reddened, raised areas. Sometimes the areas of hair loss can take on a moth-eaten appearance.
2. Red Skin: The affected skin may become inflamed, causing redness and irritation around the bald patches. The skin can look painful and be sensitive to the touch. The red areas may be easier to notice on the hairless areas of the belly.
3. Scaling: The skin may appear scaly, dry, and flaky around the affected area. In some cases, the area may be damp and oozing.
4. Itching: Ringworm can cause severe itch and your dog may bite, lick and scratch at the affected area. This can cause secondary infection and spread infection to other areas of the body.
What to do to help your dog with ringworm on its belly
Firstly, take some photos of the area so that you can objectively monitor your dog’s progress and potential improvement or worsening after treatment.
If you suspect ringworm, follow these steps:
1. Isolate Your Dog: This will help to prevent the spread to other pets and humans. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching your dog. This is especially important for children, the elderly and family members that may have suppressed immune systems.
2. Basic Home Care: Clean your dog’s affected belly area with a gentle, dog-safe antifungal wash according to the instruction son the bottle.
3. Topical Antifungal Medications: There are antifungal creams or ointments that are available over the counter. Ask your at your vet clinic as to what product they would recommend for your pet and when you can expect improvement.
4. Environmental Disinfection: It is essential to wash bedding, brushes, and other items your dog uses with an antifungal disinfectant. This will need to be done on a weekly basis until the ringworm has completely resolved.
Causes of ringworm on a dog’s belly
Ringworm is caused by various fungi, and your dog can contract it through:
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Contact with Contaminated Objects: Fungal spores can live on brushes, bedding, and other items. Coming into contact with a contaminated object can spread the fungal spores to your dog. Be sure to clean grooming equipment between pets. Never use a cat’s brushes and grooming equipment on a dog. If you make use of a grooming company, check how they disinfect their grooming equipment between dogs.
Contact with Infected Animals: Ringworm is highly contagious and can spread via direct contact with infected animals, or even humans. Cats can be carriers of the ringworm fungi without showing symptoms and are often the source of infection in a household.
Weakened Immune System: Dogs with weakened immune systems are more susceptible. Very young dogs, elderly dogs or dogs with underlying illness are more susceptible to ringworm. If your dog is on any immunosuppressive medication, like cortisone or chemotherapy, they are more likely to contract ringworm if they are exposed.
Poor Hygiene: Poor hygiene – leading to a matted coat or having wet fur can predispose your pet to developing ringworm because their skin is an ideal surface for fungal growth.
Is it ringworm or something else?
The skin can only react in very limited ways to various medical problems. This can make it difficult to differentiate between the difficult causes without specific tests. Several skin issues can resemble ringworm. These include:
1. Allergies: Allergic reactions can lead to redness and itching but might lack the distinct circular pattern. Bear in mind though, that not all ringworm infections have the distinct circular pattern.
2. Hot Spots: Hot spots are inflamed, moist areas caused by excessive licking and scratching. They can also develop secondary to a ringworm infection. View more pictures of hot spots.
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4. Bacterial infections: Bacterial infections can look very similar to ringworm and can also form result in reddened circular areas.
5. Other fungal infections. There are a variety of other fungi that can also colonise your dogs skin and this can resemble ringworm.
6. Autoimmune conditions: These can also cause hair loss and scaling. They tend to affect the skin around the lips, eyes, anus, vulva and are not usually itchy. They may affect other areas of the body and they may show other symptoms of illness.
7. Impetigo. Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that can cause red sores and blisters, especially in puppies. It can resemble ringworm but is typically characterized by a honey-colored crust on the sores.
8. Seborrheal diseases. These can cause hair loss and scaling. In some cases they may also be itchy, but in other cases they may not be.
Remember, accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment. It’s always best to consult a veterinarian for proper examination and diagnosis. They can differentiate between these conditions and recommend appropriate treatment based on your pet’s specific needs. If the correct diagnosis is not made, then the incorrect treatment may be given. This can worsen the condition or increase your dogs discomfort.
When to seek veterinary assistance
While mild cases can be managed at home, consult a vet if:
– Symptoms Worsen: If redness, scaling, or hair loss spreads or intensifies. Compare the areas on your dog’s belly to the photographs that you took initially.
– No Improvement: If there’s no improvement after a 3-4 days of home care.
– Multiple Pets are Affected: If more than one animal or person is affected, then getting veterinary treatment is essential to get the ringworm outbreak in your household under control.
– Your Dog is Uncomfortable: If your dog seems very uncomfortable or is otherwise unwell then it is important to have them checked for other underlying conditions.
Treatment options and likely costs at the vet
Your vet will take a full history and examine your dog thoroughly. The photos that you took of the skin that shows the progression, can be very helpful. They may need to do a few diagnostic tests which may include examination with a Woods’ lamp, skin scrapes, hair plucks, cultures, and skin biopsies to make an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment options at the vet may include more advanced antifungal medications, medicated baths, and a tailored care plan. Costs vary based on severity and the vet’s pricing.
The vet may prescribe topical medications such as ointments, medicated shampoos, and dips or in more severe cases, they may prescribe oral antifungal medications. They will also make recommendations on cleaning and disinfecting your household. If your dog has an underlying condition, then this will need to be addressed to get the ringworm under control.
What are the potential complications of untreated ringworm?
If left untreated, ringworm on a belly can:
- Spread to other pets and even humans in the household. If this occurs than it can be very difficult to get under control.
- result in secondary infections due to scratching and licking the area. The ringworm can also spread to other areas of the body which will warrant the use of oral medications which can be more expensive than the topical treatments.
In conclusion, ringworm is a treatable condition, but prompt action is key. By recognizing the signs, seeking veterinary assistance when needed, and following proper treatment, you can help your furry friend recover from this fungal infection and prevent its spread.