Is Dog and Cat Ringworm Contagious?

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Ring worm in humans often develops a ring-like appearance

Can Humans Get Ringworm From a Pet?

The term "zoonosis" is used to describe diseases communicable to humans from animals. There are a variety of diseases that can be passed from four-legged friends to humans. Ringworm, unfortunately, is one of them. What makes ringworm easily contagious is the fact that many pet owners may not know it is contagious. Another big contributing factor is the fact that ringworm spores cannot be seen, and what cannot be seen is what ultimately creates trouble.

What Is Ringworm?

Despite its name, ringworm has little to do with a worm. Ringworm is a fungus that infects the skin of both humans and animals. A pet infected with ringworm typically develops characteristic patches with visible hair loss. These round, hairless patches are mostly seen on the pet's head, tail, paws, legs, and belly. A pet may also develop tiny scabs or red raised lesions. In humans, ringworm generally develops a characteristic ring-like lesion which can be scaly and very itchy. These lesions, however, do not always develop.

How Do Humans Get Ringworm?

Ringworm, as already mentioned, is a fungal infection of the skin. This fungus reproduces by releasing spores that are invisible to the eye. Ringworm spores are capable of living for many years. In order to get infected, you would have to come in contact with a pet with ringworm or get in contact with any surface the pet has touched (bedding, brushes, blankets, toys). However, the good news is that not all skin gets infected with ringworm, rather, the skin must be slightly abraded for the spores to penetrate in the skin.

This means that skin that is healthy generally cannot be infected, whereas, skin that is slightly scraped or scratched may be vulnerable to ringworm, according to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. Individuals who have a vulnerable immune system may be particularly prone to ringworm. Young children, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system are predisposed to developing ringworm if their skin is slightly abraded.

One big problem about ringworm is that not all pets affected by ringworm may show the typical tell-tale hairless lesions. Humans may therefore, touch a pet with ringworm and get the disease without ever imagining they would. These pets are defined as "carriers" and they are either pets that were apparently cured but are still infected of simply pets that carry spores on their fur just as other items around the house, explains veterinarian Wendy C. Brooks in an article for Veterinary Partner.

According to veterinarian Shawn Messonnier in an article for the Whole Cat Journal, in about 30 to 70 percent of households with pets infected with ringworm at least one family member gets infected.

How to Avoid Getting Ringworm

If your pet has ringworm, most likely it is shedding spores all over the place. For this reason, disinfection and proper treatment of the pet is of primary importance. Proper diagnosis and treatment should be started immediately. The following tips will be helpful in preventing ringworm.

Tips to Help Prevent Ringworm

  1. The pet should be isolated in an area while its living spaces are properly disinfected.
  2. Clean surfaces with soap and water rising carefully at least three times a week.
  3. Afterwards, products meant to kill ringworm (bleach diluted to 1:10 solution that is 1 part bleach, 10 parts water is capable of killing ringworm spores and so is a commercial product known as "Virkon S" explains veterinarian Janet Tobiassen Crosby. It it is important to allow the surfaces to be wet with these solutions for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.
  4. The area should be vacuumed on a frequent basis to collect hair and skin cells which are full of spores. Much care must be dedicated in the disposal of vacuum bags.
  5. Hands should always be washed after touching or bathing the pet.
  6. To determine if your home has been successfully de-contaminated it may be a good idea to dust with a Swiffer cloth for about 5 minutes until it is dirty and then bring the cloth to the vet to be cultured.


  • According to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center if allowed to live, ringworm fungus is capable of remaining infective for up to 18 months or more!
  • According to Mansfield Veterinary Clinic, "infected pets remain contagious for about three weeks if aggressive treatment is used."

What If I Get Ringworm?

Once your pet is diagnosed and initiated on a treatment plan for ringworm, you must also treat yourself at the same time. Topical products often found over the counter such as Clotrimazole (Mycelex) and Terbinafine (Lamisil) may be helpful according to Mayo Clinic Staff. Often such products are used for a couple of weeks and up to three weeks. Oral medications are needed for severe cases affecting large areas.

Further Reading

  • How to Tell if Your Dog has Ringworm
    dog ringworm fungal skin disorder,emmiP, You groom your dog one morning and you find a hairless patch the size of a quarter. Then some time later you find another one and then another one....

© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 14, 2012:

Oh wow, that sure seemed like a difficult treatment! Yes, happy it is easier to treat today. Thank you for stopping by.

Pamela Dapples from Arizona now on March 13, 2012:

You really did your homework on this subject. You've included very good tips on how to prevent getting the ringworm spores if the family pet is found to have ringworm. As you've explained, topical products or oral medication can eradicate the problem -- depending on how severe a case it is.

'Back in the day' it wasn't very easy to get rid of ringworm once a child was infected with it. I became infected twice with ringworm when I was six years old. I had to sit under an ultraviolet light for about an hour every evening in a dark room. My mom would tweeze each hair off my head that glowed green under the purple light. It was very painful. The doctor told my parents it was either that -- or have my head shaved. They should have had my head shaved.

Voting up and Sharing.

Illnesses You Cannot Get from Your Pet

Although there are several infectious diseases you can get from your pet, there are many more that are not naturally transmitted from pets to humans. Because pets can get diseases that are similar to those humans get, you may wonder if you can get them from your pet.

Here are some infections that sound similar to human diseases but which you cannot get from your pet:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Feline leukemia
  • Canine influenza
  • Feline herpes

If you have questions about other diseases, be sure to have a conversation with your doctor or vet.


CDC: "National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases" "Animals" "Rabies Infection and Animals" "Toxoplasma Infection and Animals" "You Can Prevent Toxo" "Cat Scratch Disease" "Hookworm Infection and Animals" "Toxocara Infection" "Dipylidium Infection" "Ringworm and Animals" "Salmonella Infection (salmonellosis) and Animals" "Psittacosis" and "Lyme Disease and Animals."

Washington State Department of Health: "Psittacosis."

AVMA: "Disease Risks for People" and "Animal Health."

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: "Zoonotic Disease: What Can I Catch From My Cat?"

Stomach Bug

Your unexplained upset stomach could be all Fido’s fault. A germ called Campylobacter jejuni causes diarrhea, vomiting, and fever—and it can be spread via cat and dog poop.

“Bacteria and organisms in feces can get on our hands and, through day-to-day living, can inadvertently get in our mouths,” says Stull.

Sure, you’re probably not smearing your hands in poop, but your dog might rub his butt on your couch, which you touch before eating a sandwich. So wash your hands often, says Stull—especially before you eat. Eighty-five percent of people wash their hands wrong. Here’s The Right Way to Wash Your Hands.

Dealing With Canine Ringworm

Ringworm is an annoying, highly contagious fungal disorder that is curable. The problem with this disorder is that there are 35 different species of ringworm that can affect cats, dogs and be transmitted to humans as well. The most common form is Mircosporum Canis which accounts for the majority of ringworm cases.

What Causes Ringworm in Canines?

Ringworm is caused from exposure to the dermatophytes from spores present in the environment, mainly from other animals that are infected with it. Your dog could pick it up from anywhere. boarding kennels, breeding kennels, someone else's home. The spores can live in the environment for up to 13 months and are very hard to get rid of, so re-infection of animals is also a common problem. As well, children are highly susceptible to these infections, so it is very important to rid the household of this fungus as soon as possible.

This disorder usually appears as a lesion upon the skin of an animal or human and requires medical attention. It looks like a rapidly growing circular patch of broken hair in most cases. The patch may look somewhat inflamed and appear to have "dandruff" like flakes on it. However, sometimes it is very hard to spot ringworm, especially in dogs.

A veterinarian can usually diagnose ringworm by using an ultraviolet light. In some cases however, this isn't enough and a sample of hair or scrapping of the skin is needed for further diagnosis. Treatment is basically in the form of antifungal pills and/or topical medications such as creams or medicated shampoos.

The major problem is getting rid of the spores in your home so they don't re-infect your pets. Most spores are shed through the fur into the carpet, so occasional "dip" baths may be required to kill the spores that may linger on the fur of your dog. As well, it is recommended that you destroy all pet bedding, blankets, brushes/combs, and other items used by the canine.

Any items that cannot be thrown out need to be soaked thoroughly in a solution of hot water and Betadine or Iodophor for one hour. They should then be rinsed in a mixture of water and .5% chlorine bleach. Drying the items outdoors in sunlight will also help. Vacuum your house thoroughly and be sure to immediately dispose of the vacuum bag. Then have all carpets and upholstery steam-cleaned and wash all walls with a mixture of water and chlorine bleach. If you have an air filter in your home, you must also dispose of the filter.

Although ringworm is a mild disorder, it can cause a tremendous amount of problems to a household. If you continue to have problems with canine ringworm re-infection, please consult your veterinarian for additional solutions or information that he/she may be able to provide.

Rose Smith is the author and owner of Caring For Canines, a web site that provides information on natural dog health care. To learn more about dog skin problems, care and grooming, please visit us at:

MORE PETS INFORMATION RESOURCES updated Fri. March / 12 / 2021

While the telltale lesions that appear on humans also appear on cats and dogs, due to their fur coats it can be difficult to see them. In mild cases of ringworm, you may not notice anything at all. In more serious cases, you might notice the following symptoms:

  • Dandruff-like scaling in the depths of the coat
  • Red lesions on the head, chest, forelegs and the ridge of the back
  • Scaling, crusting, thickening and reddening of the skin
  • Circular patches of hair loss (alopecia) on the head, tail or the ridge of the dog or cat’s back

Watch the video: Glowing Ringworm in a Cat

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