Ringworm is a common fungal infection in Yorkies. Ringworm causes hair loss and can be devastating to your Yorkie’s coat. Here’s what you should know about ringworm, including symptoms and treatment.
You’ve probably heard of ringworm. As a kid in the country, some of my classmates had it, and I remember thinking they had a little worm growing under their skin. It gave me some pretty creepy nightmares.
Ringworm isn’t a parasitic worm, it’s actually a fungus that appears in a circular pattern, hence the name. Ringworm is a zoonotic disease, so it can be transmitted between humans and animals. Ringworm can be devastating to a Yorkie’s coat, so here’s what you need to know.
“Ringworm should be suspected in any new skin disorder or hair loss”
Ringworm is easy to spot in humans, with the characteristic ring-like red rash. In dogs, it can be a little more difficult to detect with hair covering their bodies and the “ring” not always showing up or being visible. The most obvious sign of ringworm is hair loss. Ringworm fungi feed on keratin. Keratin is found in the hair, nails, and skin. The hair loss as a result of ringworm can range from breakage of the hair to completely bald patches. Hair loss is usually most obvious around the face, ears, feet and tail. If not treated, hair loss can spread over the whole body, and can even affect the nails. When infected with a fungus, a Yorkie’s previously black nails will turn white and break off.
Other symptoms include itching, redness, scaling, bumps, or darkened skin. Ringworm can develop differently from animal to animal, so ringworm should be suspected in any new skin disorder or hair loss.
Ringworm’s most common fungal types in dogs are Microsporum canis, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and Microsporum gypseum. Not all animals that come in contact with the fungus will become infected, and some animals can be carriers without showing any symptoms.
Ringworm is transmitted by an infected person or animal, or from contaminated soil. Ringworm affects humans, dogs, cats, cows, horses, and other mammals. Ringworm has an incubation period of 7 to 14 days, but it can take up to 21 days after exposure before symptoms begin.
Most healthy Yorkies can rid themselves of the fungus over the course of a few months, but puppies and Yorkies whose immune systems are compromised will need treatment to get rid of the fungus. Any Yorkie with ringworm should be treated, in order to prevent transmission to humans and other pets as well as to prevent damage to the coat and nails.
Diagnosing ringworm can be difficult and time consuming. The most definitive way to diagnose ringworm is with a culture. Your vet will take a sample of hair and skin cells and send them to a laboratory where the samples will be checked to see is anything grows from the sample. Because of the incubation period of ringworm it could take up to 3 weeks to see the results.
Other, less reliable tests, include a Wood’s lamp (which will find about 50% of Microsporum canis only), and looking at the hair under a microscope (which has a 40 to 70% detection rate).
Since ringworm is infectious, infected animals should be quarantined inside the house, in areas that are easy to clean, until the fungus is gone. Affected and unaffected pets should be kept away from each other. The pet’s bedding and any other areas where spores could have dropped should be cleaned.
Ringworm affects the superficial layers of skin, so topical treatment usually clears the fungus. Veterinarians will usually prescribe creams or ointments, along with a medicated shampoo. The ringworm should start to clear and hair should start to grow back in about a week to two weeks. In severe cases, or cases where topical treatment isn’t working after a couple of weeks, your veterinarian my prescribe oral anti-fungal medications. The most common medications for ringworm are griseofulvin, ketoconazole, itraconazole, fluconaole, and terbinafine.