Despite the name, ringworm is not a worm (or even caused by a worm), but a fungal infection of the top layers of the skin and hair. The kinds of fungi that cause ringworm are called dermatophytes, and the most common one in pets is called Microsporum canis. While generally harmless, ringworm is highly contagious to humans, especially to children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system (eg. people undergoing chemotherapy). As such, if you suspect you or your pet has ringworm it’s important to seek medical or veterinary treatment immediately.
Ringworm can be caught from a variety of sources ranging from the soil, other people and also from your pets. It is one of the few infections that can be transferred from animals to humans. As the fungi can live on stray hair follicles and skin cells, it is quite easily transmitted. One species of ringworm (Microsporum gypseum) is a soil organism and can be picked up spending time in the garden. If you know your pet or another person has ringworm, avoid the following:
In humans, ringworm is commonly identified as a red and itchy skin lesion in the shape of a ring. If you suspect you have a ringworm lesion, please contact your healthcare professional for advice on treatment.
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:
If you suspect wingworm in your dog or cat, it’s important to go straight to your vet, as diagnosis often requires a thorough clinical examination and testing. Your vet will use a combination of the following diagnostic tests:
Your vet may also perform additional testing to rule out other causes of the hair loss and skin lesions (eg. allergic skin disease, sarcoptes or demodex mites).
There are a number of options to effectively treat ringworm, depending on the severity of the lesions.
For mild cases, antifungal creams and ointments can be applied directly to the affected areas of your pet’s skin. If the infection is widespread, your vet may prescribe an antifungal shampoo to treat your pet’s entire body. It’s important that you only use ointments and shampoos that have been recommended by your vet, as other products may aggravate the condition.
While ointments can be effective in mild cases, most of the time your pet will also need to take an oral anti-fungal drug to eradicate the infection. Treatment usually needs to be continued for at least six weeks and sometimes longer. When administering oral medication, remember the following:
As ringworm lives on both skin and hair, it can be easily transmitted by loose hair on carpet or furniture. At the same time as treating your animal for ringworm, it is recommended that you do a thorough clean of your home environment to remove any contaminated hairs.
It can take up to six weeks for treatment to be effective. During this time, your pet may still be contagious, so it’s important that members of the family (particularly children, the elderly or anyone with a compromised immune system) have minimal contact with the animal.
The fungi that cause ringworm love to live in warm, damp environments like soil. They then attach to hair and skin cells shed by humans and animals. While there is not much you can do to prevent these conditions, there are a number of other actions that you can take to prevent you and your family from catching the infection:
While our annual healthcare plan may not be able to prevent ringworm you can get unlimited consultations* for greater convenience and peace of mind - this is perfect for situations such as suspecting that your furry companion may have ringworm. The Total Wellness Plan also includes annual vaccinations, monthly parasite control delivered to your door and lots of other extras - become a member and start enjoying the benefits of the Total Wellness Plan today.
*For Classic plan members only.