It may be fun to allow your dog to romp around off-leash, and it’s easy to just ignore them when they seem to become fascinated with that one particular patch of dirt. However fun it may be, you should be careful — that soil may contain ringworm spores that will give your dogs bothersome itchy red spots that can be a huge hassle to eradicate.
While this fungal infection may be annoying in the best of circumstances, it may be a bit more serious if it happens to be close to your dog’s eye. Because the itchy spot is close to this sensitive area, and dogs are not always the most coordinated of animals, they may end up scratching their eye, which may lead to some more serious issues and many trips to the vet. For this reason, dog owners should be especially careful about ringworm when it’s near their dog’s eye. In this post, we’ll go over:
- What causes ringworm
- Identifying it
- What to do if it’s near your dog’s eye
- General treatment
Causes of Ringworm
If your dog is a big fan of digging, she may come into contact with ringworm spores in the soil. This is not a guarantee that she will become infected — likelihood of infection depends on the age of the dog (the younger, the more susceptible), the state of their immune system, and their grooming habits.
Because fungal spores have the ability to lay dormant for many months, it is also possible that your dog will contract the infection from contact with the possessions of a previously infected animal or human. This is one of the reasons it can be so difficult to get rid of ringworm, and demonstrates why it is important to be careful when handling an animal with ringworm — it can also be transmitted to humans.
This scaly red patch is a sure sign of ringworm.
How To Identify Ringworm
Ringworm feeds on the keratin that can be found in the outer layers of skin of any animals — the same material that makes up your hair and nails! On animals, ringworm shows itself as little scaly bald patches, which are caused by the ringworm fungi infecting hair follicles which breaks the hair off at the root.
These hairs that are broken off by ringworm are yet another inconspicuous way for the infection to spread to the rest other parts of the dog, or to other animals and humans. The lesions may be red and inflamed, but most are not. If the infection is left long enough for the circles to enlarge, the center may heal enough for the hair to grow back there, giving it the circular ring shape for which it is famous.
They most often appear on a dog’s ears, paws, limbs, or head — where they may be a bit too close to the eyes for comfort. Remember that ringworm can appear much differently on humans, often more red, raised, and scaly. Because there are other diseases or infections that may cause bald spots on your pet, if you are unsure of the cause, contact your vet and they can take a skin sample to confirm that the cause is ringworm.
This poor puppy has an itchy red bald spot close to her eye.
What To Do If It’s Near Your Dog’s Eye
In all cases involving an eye injury, it is always best to contact your vet as soon as possible. The eyes are a very sensitive area on any animal, and any issue that has the potential to affect them should be considered a serious problem.
If you can’t get your dog to the vet right away, using a cone collar can help prevent them from scratching at the ringworm and potentially damaging their eyes. If dogs scratch at their eyes repeatedly, an ulcer or scratch may form on the cornea. For this reason, take care when ringworm is close to your dog’s eye and contact your vet as soon as possible. Don’t attempt to treat the ringworm if there is a chance that the medicine could get into your dog’s eye.
While a dog’s immune system will eventually react to the ringworm and stop it from spreading, this process usually takes a few weeks. In this time, the ringworm may have a chance to spread across the dog’s body — and also into the bothersome eye area — and even immunity won’t get rid of existing lesions in most cases. For this reason, it’s better to start treatment as early as possible and not wait for the ringworm to heal itself — it will likely disappoint you.
To ensure that your dog’s infection is ringworm, you can contact your vet, who will either use an ultraviolet light to see if the infected area will effervesce or take a skin sample to evaluate. The second test gives the most definitive diagnosis, but it will take at least a few days.
In the meantime, if your dog has a mild case of ringworm it can be solved with a simple topical treatment. While Fauna’s anti-fungal spray is perfect for treating mild cases of ringworm that are concentrated in a particular area, there are a variety of topical shampoos that can be used for full-body treatment. Plus, if you are worried about the treatment getting in your dog’s eye, a medicated ointment or cream may be a better option since they can be applied very precisely. All of these topical treatments are made more effective if the area around the ringworm is shaved since your dog’s fur — which is there to protect your dog’s skin — may repel the treatment somewhat.
If your dog’s infection is more severe, the vet may prescribe oral medication to treat it. To be effective, this medicine should be taken for a minimum of six weeks. However, this medicine should only be taken in the most serious of cases, as it can trigger several unpleasant side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite — and when your dog’s unhappy, so are you.
In the best-case scenario, your dog’s infection will be gone in three weeks. This is with the most aggressive course of treatment — if the treatment is more minimal, or you are not faithful in keeping to the treatment schedule, it is possible that your dog’s ringworm will last longer. To minimize you and your dog’s discomfort, try to keep a consistent schedule with treatment and cleaning.
If your dog has ringworm, a deep cleaning is in order.
Even more important than the treatment, perhaps, is making sure that the infection does not crop up again. Ringworm is amazingly tenacious and can lay dormant for long periods — up to 18 months — on anything with which your dog comes into contact. A deep, thorough vacuum is required for any rugs or floors, and remember to throw out the vacuum bag when you’re done! Any rugs or carpets that are specifically for your dog should be trashed altogether.
You can attempt to clean toys and beds with a bleach solution, but to be safe rather than sorry, it’s often better to throw them out altogether. Any surfaces with which your dog comes into contact should first be washed with soap and water, then with a watered-down bleach solution. This process should be repeated once per month, or more if you so desire, until the infection is completely eradicated.
Because this cleaning process has to be repeated, once the initial cleaning is done, it may be helpful to restrict your dog to a part of the house that’s easier to clean. Every time you clean, be mindful that ringworm can also be transferred to humans just by contact with the fungus — so wear gloves!
To prevent ringworm in the first place, make sure to keep your dog and their environment as clean as possible. Although you can’t always prevent your puppy from rolling in the dirt, you can make sure to clean it off of them! Regular grooming should always be a part of your dog’s schedule, and regular cleaning of their environment should be part of yours.
Make sure to routinely clean all beds, vacuum anywhere your dog hangs out, and disinfect their toys with a bleach solution. A commitment to keeping your dog’s environment clean is the best way to make sure that no nasty bacteria or fungi — including ringworm — will ever have the opportunity to latch onto them.
As any humans who have had ringworm would know, it is an uncomfortable and extremely annoying experience. It is likely the same for your dog — and if the ringworm happens to be near her eye, the potential for serious issues arises. So, be faithful in your cleaning to prevent this experience, and if your dog already has ringworm, contact your vet and follow their treatment plan as faithfully as possible. Only in this way can you ensure the comfort of your dog and yourself.