Do your pets have balding red patches? Ringworm could be the cause. Learn more about ringworm symptoms, treatments, and how to keep it at bay.
What is Ringworm Disease?
Ringworm may sound frightening, but this is a common infection that can affect the hair and skin of animals and humans. Ringworm is not a worm! This is the common name of a fungus infection.
The fungus that causes ringworm, known scientifically as tinea corporis, is a group of bacteria called dermatophytes. Three types of fungus are responsible for almost all ringworm infections:
- About 70% of infections are caused by Microsporum canis
- About 20% of infections are caused by Microsporum gypsum
- Trichophyton mentagrophytes are responsible for approximately 10% of infections
The fungi can be found in nature and will travel home with your pet on its fur. They can then spread to humans and other animals. The fungus can be found on the skin’s surface, hair follicles, and sometimes in nails. It causes skin irritation, weak nails, and hair.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Ringworm can manifest in many ways. However, it would help if you were on the lookout for these symptoms in cats and dogs:
- Circular patches of hair thinning
- Skin lesions or red, irritated skin
- Skin that is flaky or scaly
- Hair that is dry and brittle, which may even break.
- Peeling or Cracking Nails
- Small, sesame-seed-sized scabs characterize military dermatitis. This condition is more common in cats.
You should consult your veterinarian if you see any of these signs or if your pet appears in pain or itchy. The vet will examine the skin and hair of your pet and may use some standard methods to confirm if it is ringworm.
- Wood’s lamp: The ultraviolet lamp causes the excretions to glow yellow-green under the light. This test does not detect all cases, usually followed by further testing. However, this is a non-invasive way to diagnose ringworm.
- Microscopical examination: A hair sample may be taken from the affected area to examine under a microscope. This will allow your vet to identify the fungal spores.
- Fungal Culture: Your vet may send a hair sample to a lab to identify and test the fungus if they need to confirm their diagnosis. This test can take up to one month to provide a definitive diagnosis. This is why it’s not the first test vets use, but it is still the most accurate.
Your vet may suggest additional lab tests if they believe your pet has a severe case of ringworm. These tests will assess the general health of your pet’s immune system. The majority of adult animals can fight off ringworm infection. A primary systemic disease could be an indication that there is an undiagnosed medical condition that is compromising the immune response.
Your vet can help you create a treatment plan if your pet is diagnosed with ringworm. Your vet may prescribe three things to treat ringworm.
- Topical creams and ointments These treatments can be applied directly to affected skin areas. They are best used for localized infections. If your pet has long hair, you may be advised to shave these areas to make the application process more manageable. These treatments not only soothe your pet’s skin but also fight fungus. They also trap spores to prevent their spread.
- Medicated Shampoo: A full-body shampoo is the best way to treat an infection that has spread over a large area of your pet’s body. Vet-prescribed medicated soaps contain similar ingredients as antifungal creams but are designed to remain effective after washing off.
- Oral medication: Vets often prescribe oral systemic medicines and topical treatment to attack the infection on the inside. There are many different medications, which are usually taken as pills with meals. Some drugs suppress the bone marrow and reduce your pet’s red and white blood cells. Your vet will require regular blood tests while your pet takes the medication. These treatments are safe and effective when administered under the supervision of a vet.
- Your vet will prescribe medications you must take for at least six weeks. You may have to continue taking them for months to clear the infection completely. Ringworm is also something your vet may recommend for testing other animals in the house and people in close contact with an infected pet. Early detection can make treatment more accessible.
- As soon as your pet has been diagnosed with ringworm, increasing your cleaning routine and keeping the environment as clean as possible is essential. When you rub your pet’s belly, fungi spores are easily transferred to your hands. They can also be spread onto your couch cushions if your pet is napping.
- Ringworm can be controlled by:
- Vacuum all soft surfaces your dog touches daily, including rugs, furniture, and other smooth surfaces.
- Wash pet bedding, blankets, and soft toys regularly.
- Clean any surfaces that your pet uses daily.
- When you brush, the hair shed by your pet should be disposed of immediately.
- Replace soft toys with toys that are easy to clean. They can be scrubbed or machine-washed.
- While your pet is undergoing treatment, minimize physical contact as much as possible. Consider separating them from other animals and children attracted to a pet begging for attention.
- After any contact with your animal, wash your hands thoroughly.
- Ringworm can be more dangerous for people who have weakened immune systems.
The following is a list of preventions.
- Fungi cause ringworm. While we would all like to protect our pets from harm, you can do nothing to prevent your pet from coming into contact with it. You can still do things to reduce the chance of the connection becoming an infection. Cleaning regularly and supporting your pet’s immune system are your best defenses.
- It may not be possible to clean every home surface daily or all the time, but regularly cleaning high-traffic areas and places your pet enjoys can help keep the number of fungal spores down in your home and reduce everyone’s risk of infection. A weekly or monthly cleaning checklist will keep you organized and promote a healthy home for all.