Humans can contract a number of illnesses from dogs, but ringworm is the primary fungal infection most commonly transmitted between canines and their human companions. Contrary to what the name suggests, ringworm doesn't actually involve worms. Rather, ringworm is a fungal skin infection, easily transmitted and easily cured.
Puppies and adolescent dogs are most likely to contract ringworm, which invades the dogs' hair and hair follicles. Pups typically contract the disease from spores in the soil or from other infected animals. Humans then get the ringworm from their dogs by touching, playing with or grooming the pups, or even by coming in contact with their bedding, or contaminated carpet and furniture. Humans and animals have the potential to pass the disease back and forth between each other in an endless cycle. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of your home is required to prevent future outbreaks.
Ringworm presents as a slightly raised circular red ring with a pale, sometimes crusty, center. The fungal infection may be a variety of sizes and can be located on any part of the body -- though on the dog, ringworm is commonly found on the face, tail and feet. On canines, the circle portion of the fungus results in corresponding hair loss, while on a human, the raised circle resembles a burn. Children are most susceptible to developing ringworm. Always have a vet diagnose the condition in your dog, as some insect bites, demodectic mange and hair follicle infection can present similar symptoms.
Most often, a topical antifungal medication is used to treat ringworm in dogs and humans. In some cases, ringworm may lead to scabbing and itching, which your dog may bite and scratch, leading to a secondary skin infection. If the ringworm doesn't improve or the area becomes further red and inflamed, contact your vet. Your dog may need an antibiotic to alleviate the skin infection.
If your dog contracts ringworm, handle him only while wearing gloves and protective clothing. Follow the course of treatment prescribed by your personal physician and by your vet. Monitor yourself and your dog for recurrences of ringworm so you can stop it in its tracks and prevent it from spreading. If you or your pet has a severe case of ringworm, with more than a few lesions, ask your vet about using a prescription-strength body wash or shampoo that contains miconazole, which can help eliminate widespread ringworm.
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