Ringworm is a fairly common and highly contagious skin, nail, and hair or fur infection that despite its name does not always manifest as a ring and is NOT caused by a worm! Ringworm is actually caused by a fungus! There are several different types of fungi that are responsible for ringworm infections and many of them are zoonotic, meaning the infection can be transmitted to and from both humans and pets. The infection is easily spread by skin to skin contact and from objects or surfaces that have been touched by an infected person or pet such as clothing, towels or bedding, and brushes or combs. The fungi also occur in soil.
So what does a ringworm infection look like?
Symptoms of Ringworm in Pets
Ringworm is not a life-threatening disease, but it is very contagious and does require the intervention of a veterinarian. Knowing the symptoms of ringworm can help you catch the disease before it passes to humans or other pets.
Ringworm usually presents as circular areas of hair loss throughout the body. These lesions may start to heal in the center as they enlarge, creating a patchy appearance, and may become inflamed or scabbed.
Ringworm usually does not itch. The affected hair follicles are brittle and break easily, which helps spread the disease throughout your home. In some cases the fungus infects the claws, making them brittle and rough.
Contact your veterinarian if your dog or cat experiences any or all of these symptoms:
- Circular areas of hair loss
- Dry, brittle hair
- Scabby, inflamed skin
- Rough, brittle claws
How is Ringworm diagnosed?
Often your veterinarian can determine from the symptoms your pets has that it is a ringworm infection. There is also a special type of ultraviolet lamp called a Woods Lamp that can be used. Some types of ringworm fungi will fluoresce when exposed to this light.
Unfortunately, not all ringworm infections will fluoresce. Your veterinarian may need to set up a culture to determine the best course of treatment.
How is ringworm treated?
Your veterinarian will determine the best course of treatment. The most common way to treat ringworm is to use a combination of topical therapy (application of creams, ointments or shampoos) and systemic oral therapy (administration of anti-fungal drugs by mouth). In order for treatment to be successful, all environmental contamination must be eliminated. All surfaces must be cleaned and all bedding should be washed. Humans should be diligent about washing hands frequently and thoroughly. If you suspect you have ringworm you should see your doctor. The earlier the infection can be diagnosed the more the chance of spreading the infection decreases.
By: Kathy Berrier