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dogs and meds
Brown dog receives a bath

The essentials

  • Fungal infections are common in dogs — Yeast and ringworm are the most common fungal infections that cause skin lesions on dogs.
  • Infections are treatable, but avoid antifungal creams — Topical creams are generally not recommended or effective for fungal infections. Instead, vets will prescribe oral medications or recommend medicated shampoos, sprays, or wipes.
  • Speak to your vet before trying treatments — Your vet can diagnose a fungal infection and map out the best course of treatment, including which products to use.

Fungal skin infections on dogs

Fungal skin infections are common and can be uncomfortable for dogs. There are a few common triggers: skin mites, ringworm, or an overgrowth of yeast  (Malassezia) on dogs with environmental or food allergies.

Allergies

Dogs with allergies are itchy and often lick their feet and other body parts. The constant licking creates a moist environment on the skin for yeast to thrive. Yeast infections can cause the skin to become thickened like elephant skin, black and hairless. There is often an odor to the skin when there is a yeast infection.

Ringworm

The other common fungal skin infection that dogs are susceptible to is ringworm. Ringworm does not refer to a parasitic worm but instead a fungus spread by spores found in the environment, on contaminated surfaces, or by coming into contact with pets or people that have the infection. It’s named for the ring-shaped raised, red, and hairless skin lesions that form on a dog’s skin.

👉 Sick visits to the vet may be covered by pet insurance. If your pet isn’t protected, get your quote based on your pet’s breed, age, and location at Fetch by the Dodo.

Antifungal creams for dogs

If your dog has a fungal infection, it’s understandable that you want to treat it fast. Antifungal creams seem like a quick fix and were once a standard treatment, but vets have since found different, more effective ways to nix these pesky infections in dogs.

Antifungal creams are meant to be applied topically to the affected area of a dog’s skin but are only helpful if there is one small skin lesion on a dog’s body. Common types of creams veterinarians prescribed in the past include:

  • Clotrimazole
  • Miconazole
  • Econazole
  • Itraconazole
  • Ketoconazole

These creams purported to soothe and heal the infection. The problem is that most ringworm and yeast infections cover multiple areas of a dog’s body. For example, yeast infections can be in the nail beds or even between the digits on all four feet. It’s practically impossible to use an antifungal cream to cover every area affected by the infection. Dogs may also lick the cream off.

Veterinarian Michelle Diener will recommend using miconazole ointment for dogs with ringworm infections that have only one skin lesion. Antifungal ointment costs around $10 but is not worth the purchase if multiple skin lesions are present.

👉 Check with your vet before you treat your dog at home. Many skin lesions look similar but are caused by different types of infections. Don’t treat your pet at home without knowing the cause of the skin lesions first. Only your vet will know for sure with diagnostic skin tests.

Alternatives to antifungal creams

More often, Dr. Diener prescribes antifungal shampoos along with oral antifungal medications such as itraconazole or ketoconazole to effectively treat a fungal infection. Oral antifungal medication can cost $15-$50 for a month of medication, depending upon the dog’s size. A bottle of medicated shampoo can cost $20-$25. It usually takes several weeks to treat a fungal skin infection caused by either yeast or ringworm.

👉 If you use anything that leads to an adverse reaction in your dog, stop using the product immediately and consult your vet.

You and your vet may choose different treatment methods depending on the severity of the infection as well as personal preferences:

  • Opt for a bath or rinse — Medicated shampoos are among the most popular topical treatments, particularly for pets who love baths. They can heal infections and relieve symptoms like odor and itchy skin. Dr. Diener suggests using an antifungal shampoo twice weekly for at least a month. Allow the shampoo to stay on the pet’s body for five to 10 minutes before rinsing. She recommends Miconahex + Keto shampoo made by Dechra, Virbac’s Ketochlor shampoo, or a prescription shampoo called Malaseb made by Bayer.
  • Try an oral medication — Your vet may write you a prescription for an oral antifungal medication. These drugs are often effective for the treatment of fungal skin infections but may vary in cost and side effects.
  • Consider skin supplements —While they may not fully treat a fungal infection, keeping your dog’s skin and coat healthy using supplements can help overall.
  • Check out wipes — Antifungal wipes can get rid of germs and bacteria before they become a problem. They’re a great option to use in between baths or for dogs who don’t like bathing. Dr. Diener recommends Dechra’s Miconahex+Keto Wipes or Vetnique Labs Dermabliss Medicated Antibacterial & Antifungal Skin Wipes.
  • Think about a spray  Sprays can help heal and relieve symptoms associated with a fungal infection. Vets can prescribe stronger ones for more serious fungal skin infections. Dr. Diener suggests Dechra’s Miconahex + Keto spray, Vetnique Labs Dermabliss Anti-Bacterial & Antifungal Medicated Spray, or Pet MD Antiseptic & Antifungal Medicated Spray.

When to call your vet

A vet should diagnose a pet’s fungal skin infection before you put any over-the-counter treatment in your shopping cart. Treating these infections ASAP is important because they can worsen quickly. Ringworm infections are highly contagious, so you’ll want to prevent the spread of ringworm in your home, as it’s transmissible from human to animal and vice versa.

Fungal skin infections in dogs can be serious and, if left untreated, can lead to hair loss, skin lesions all over the body, and a poor quality of life as these infections are extremely itchy and uncomfortable.

You should also alert your pet’s doctor if you notice any adverse reactions to a treatment, including increased skin irritation or redness, hair loss, or bleeding. Tell your vet if your dog has a history of chronic yeast infections, as it will be important to determine the underlying cause.

Frequently asked questions

Is antifungal cream safe for dogs?

Use of a topical antifungal cream, such as miconazole cream, is safe in small portions when applying it to a single skin lesion. However, never use a topical medication without consulting your local veterinarian first. Antifungal creams are not considered effective because fungal infections typically affect multiple areas of a pet’s body. The bottom line is antifungal creams are considered inefficient nowadays.

Can you use human antifungal cream on dogs?

There are several antifungal creams designed for human use that treat issues like athlete’s foot. But these are not designed for dogs. There also isn’t evidence-based guidance on dosing, frequency of application, or harmful potential side effects. It’s best to instead speak to your vet about other remedies, such as antifungal shampoo and oral antifungal medication.

What is the best antifungal treatment for dogs?

If your dog has a yeast or ringworm infection, the first thing to consider is the location of the infection. If it is widespread, oral antifungal medication and medicated shampoo are often most effective. If your dog doesn’t like baths, antifungal wipes or an antifungal spray may be prescribed instead.  Other factors to take into account is if your dog has liver disease, or is on medication that can’t be given with an oral antifungal. Sometimes topical therapy, like medicated shampoos and wipes, is the preferred option.