Ringworm can affect many of our four-legged friends, including dogs.
The name is a bit confusing. Because ringworm isn’t a worm at all.
It’s a fungal infection your dog can get on his skin. In humans, athlete’s foot is a kind of ringworm.
While it’s not a fatal disease, it’s extremely contagious. So it can easily and quickly spread from your dog to humans or other animals.
So you need to know how to spot this fungal infection. Then you can naturally manage ringworm in a safe and effective manner.
But first … some background.
What Is Ringworm In Dogs?
Ringworm (Dermatophytosis) in dogs is not a worm as the name suggests. It’s an infection of skin, hair, or nails … and it’s caused by fungus.
The disease causes bald, scaly patches or acne-like bumps on the skin. These patches are usually round … hence the name ringworm. Most ringworm cases spread through contact with infected animals. Sometimes contaminated grooming tools may be to blame.
Ringworm in a healthy adult dog should clear up on its own. But natural treatment will speed up recovery and reduce your dog’s discomfort.
Note: According to the Merck Veterinary Manual … infection is more common in young or debilitated animals and in Yorkshire Terriers. Consult your holistic veterinarian in these cases.
Spotting Ringworm In Dogs
How can you tell if your dog has ringworm? Here are a few signs that to watch for:
- Ringworm causes skin problems, so look for abnormalities in the coat and skin. Regular brushing can help you spot these sooner.
- Look for scaly-looking dandruff deep in the dog’s coat, as well as red or crusty skin.
- Severe ringworm can cause lesions, making your dog itchy and uncomfortable.
- You may also notice your dog’s hair falling out in circular patches. This usually happens on the ridge of the neck, the tail or the head.
So … if your dog gets ringworm, how can you manage it? First let’s talk about why conventional treatments aren’t ideal.
Conventional Ringworm Treatments
If you go to a conventional vet, they’ll likely prescribe a couple of things:
- Antifungal drugs like …
- Itraconazole (Diflucan)
- Fluconazole (Sporanox)
- Ketonazole (Nizoral)
- Topical anti-fungal treatments like …
- Anti-fungal rinses or shampoos
- Lime sulfur dips or shampoos (also used to treat mange)
Here’s the problem with these treatments.
First of all, any “anti-“ medication is suppressive. What that means is they can drive symptoms deeper into the body. So they may make your dog better at first … but in the end, the symptoms often return. And when they do, they’re often more serious.
Dr Sam Kovac BVSc (Merit), Chartered member of the Australian Veterinary Association, Member, Royal College of Vet Surgeons UK, MSGFC, who is also on the advisory board for We’re All About Pets, warns about the dangers of antifungals:
Fungus cells are similar to animal cells and so medications to kill fungus generally also damage animal cells. Common organs affected are the liver, skin and kidneys.
This applies to the topical anti-fungals too. They can also suppress symptoms and drive the disease deeper.
Lime sulfur dips are especially risky. They can be corrosive and cause chemical burns on the skin. They can harm the respiratory tract and irritate or damage the eyes. And if your dog licks or drinks the solution, it can kill him. It also smells terrible!
Second of all, all these antifungal drugs have side effects. These drugs can cause things like:
- Lack of appetite
- Liver problems
- Birth defects in fetuses
And each drug has its own set of other risks, such as:
- Can increase liver enzymes
- Not well absorbed by the GI tract (must give it with food)
- Can cause skin issues, including dermatitis
- Kidney issues
- Thinning or dryness of coat, dandruff
- Excessive drinking and urination
- May need to give with vitamin C for absorption
- Higher incidence of digestive upset than other antifungals
- Can cause temporary infertility in males
- Causes lightening of coat color (usually goes back to normal after stopping the drug)
5 Ways To Manage Ringworm In Your Dog
Here are 5 natural ways to manage your dog’s ringworm. Each of these remedies can take 2 to 3 weeks to clear up the problem. So be patient!
Caution: Ringworm is contagious. So you may want to wear disposable latex gloves to apply these remedies. (If you’re allergic to latex, nitrile is the next best option).
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has antifungal effects. Use organic, unfiltered ACV. Soak a cotton ball with the undiluted ACV and apply it topically to the affected area. Repeat up to 3 times daily
2. Oil Of Oregano
Oil of oregano is popular for bacterial infections … especially staph infections. But it also has antifungal properties and can help with ringworm.
Always dilute oil of oregano, using 1-3 drops of oil of oregano per teaspoon of olive or coconut oil. Apply it 3 to 4 times a day to the affected area.
3. Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass essential oil can help heal the ringworm wounds. And it can stop them from spreading.
Use 3 drops of the oil diluted in 1 teaspoon of carrier oil like almond oil. Rub it 3 to 4 times a day on the affected area.
4. Neem Oil
Neem oil comes from the neem tree in India, and has many medicinal uses. It’s antifungal properties can help with ringworm.
Add 5 drops of neem oil to 1 tsp jojoba oil in a glass jar. Shake well and apply three times a day to the affected areas.
Garlic’s an amazing food that has so many uses for dogs. Feeding your dog garlic can be helpful for ringworm … but you can also use it on the skin.
Slice a clove of garlic in half. Let it sit a few minutes to release the allicin (the main medicinal property in garlic). Then rub the cut side onto the ringworm patches on your dog’s skin. Do this 3 times a day, using a fresh clove of garlic each time.
If you want to feed fresh garlic as well, chop it up and let it sit for 15 minutes before feeding. Give these daily amounts:
- Small dogs ¼ clove
- Medium dogs ½ clove
- Large dogs ¾ clove
- Giant dogs 1 clove
Related: Can dogs eat garlic?
Ringworm In Your Home
Ringworm is very contagious. You’ll need to take measures to protect yourself, your family and other pets.
Keep your house very clean.
Vacuum often to get rid of dog hairs or skin particles lying around your house Be sure to remove all traces of dog hair.
Wash down any hard surfaces with a natural disinfectant. White vinegar with high acetic acid concentration is a good option.
Keep your dog (the one with ringworm!) restricted to parts of the house that are the easiest to clean.
That will usually be rooms with hard floors rather than carpet. Hairs from the dog can get embedded deep in the carpet. They can be tough to remove even with a vacuum. You don’t want that contagious debris hanging around in your house.
You’ll want to keep your dog off your sofa or bed until the ringworm has cleared up!
Now … how do you stop ringworm from happening again?
Preventing Ringworm In Dogs
The good news is that ringworm is preventable. There’s a lot you can do to protect your pets and your home from a ringworm infestation.
Keep Your Dog Clean And Dry
Ringworm thrives in damp, dirty environments … so keep your dog clean and dry. This helps make sure that ringworm never gains a foothold. Regular grooming or bathing can help you keep an eye on your dog’s skin … but don’t overbathe your dog!
Give Your Dog Separate Bedding And Dishes
Stop your dog from spreading ringworm to other pets. Give him separate bedding and dishes. Ringworm is highly contagious … so this will help stop the disease spreading from one animal to another.
Always remember to dry off your dog if he gets caught in the rain or after he goes swimming!
When To Talk To Your Vet
If your dog has generalized ringworm (throughout his body) … consult your holistic vet. It’s unusual, but can be a sign of Cushing’s disease or another immunodeficiency.
Follow these natural prevention tips to keep ringworm at bay. But, if you dog does pick up ringworm, there are plenty of natural treatment methods to use. You can avoid resorting to strong “anti-“ medications with harmful side effects.