Pet Ringworm

When is a worm, not a worm? When it is Ringworm!

Ringworm confuses many pet owners since it is not really a worm at all. Rather, the Ringworm is a kind of fungus that got its name because it often leaves circular lesions on our pets. The fungal infection, officially termed: dermatophytosis, makes dogs and cats feel uncomfortable and itchy. Hair loss, redness and scales (like dandruff) are also symptoms.

Any pet can become infected with Ringworm, but it does tend to be seen more commonly in young pets or animals with suppressed immune systems.

You, your family and your other pets can get Ringworm from an infected cat or dog! (And they can also catch it from you). Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your pet and contact your physician if you ever see scaly, red or itchy patches on your skin.

Some pets can be silent carriers. This means they have the fungus in their system but are asymptomatic, showing no outward signs of the condition.  These pets can still transmit the disease to other pets and people alike.

Your Veterinarian will perform a fungal culture of plucked hairs or skin scales, a microscopic examination of a sample of hair if he or she suspects ringworm. Some types of fungus fluoresce when exposed to light from a Wood’s lamp. Your veterinarians may use a Wood’s lamp to identify where to take samples from. A fungal culture is the only way of accurately monitoring your cat or dog’s treatment. Many pets will improve and look like they are recovering, but they may remain fungal culture positive. It is in everyone’s best interest to repeat fungal cultures toward the end of treatment, and continue treatment until at least one culture result is negative. In resistant cases, fungal cultures may be repeated on a weekly basis, and treatment continued until two to three consecutive negative results are obtained.

The good news is that ringworm is treatable. Your veterinarian will treat the infection with anti-fungal medication for an extended period of time. It is crucial to disinfect your home to stop the spread and re-infection. You will need to vacuum carpeted areas every day. Clean floors and walls once a week. Clean all non-porous surfaces (metal, glass plastic) two times a week with a diluted bleach solution or Lysol. Clean all your pets bedding in hot water once a week, and throw away anything that cannot be thoroughly cleaned like a cat tree. All other pets in the household should be tested, and treated if positive or kept away from the positive pet in quarantine. Some veterinarians will recommend the prophylactic treatment of exposed pets in the household to reduce the likelihood of re-infection.

Some species of ringworm live in the soil, and dogs, cats, and humans can become sick after contacting dirt that is home to these organisms. The possibility of rodents spreading this fungus should also be considered. If you suspect that your cat or dog has access to rodents either inside or out, you will need to take the necessary steps to eliminate these pests without use of poisons, since this can be lethal to your dog or cat as well.

If you suspect your dog or cat has ringworm, make an appointment with your World of Animals Veterinarian for an examination.