Ringworm in pets, or in humans, in a type of skin infection. The name "ringworm" is a misnomer in that the organism causing the infection is not a worm at all; it’s a fungus. Pet owners can catch ringworm from their animal friends—their dogs, cats, horses, cattle, etc.
Ringworm gets its name from the ring-shaped pattern it causes on people—a round, red patch that encircles an area of skin. On animals, ringworm appears instead as a dry, scaly patch of missing hair.
Ringworm fungi spores can live outdoors, on animal items, and in animal bedding. They can be passed to other animals from the spores dropping off the infected animal or through using an infected animal’s grooming items or bedding.
Diagnosis of Ringworm
If your cat or dog is missing patches of hair or has skin lesions, you should take them to the veterinarian for diagnosis. The veterinarian might inspect your pet's hairs under a microscope to see the spores, or they may perform a culture to attempt to grow the fungi from spores taken from the cat or dog. A skin biopsy would also show if spores are present in the skin.
Treatment for Ringworm
Oral and topical anti-fungal treatments are available through your prescriptions from your veterinarian to treat ringworm in your dog or cat. Some studies have shown that the medication lufenuron, as found in the monthly flea and worm preventative Sentinel, may reduce a pet’s risk for contracting ringworm. Ask your veterinarian if that medication is right for your pet.
Even without treatment, ringworm could go away on its own within a few months; however, the spores would still be contaminating the animal’s area—potentially your home. If this is the case, you and your pets could get ringworm again. So for your benefit, as well as your pets’, treatment is recommended.
While your pet is receiving treatment, you’ll want to decontaminate your home. Vacuuming and steam cleaning of carpets should help remove the spores. Diluting bleach 1:10 will also kill spores on surfaces like floors. While your pet is being treated for ringworm and you’re disinfecting your house, you might want to keep the animal confined to a particular area until they are not carrying ringworm spores anymore. A follow up culture performed by the veterinarian will determine when their ringworm infection has resolved.
More on Pet Skin Health
Hot Spots in Dogs and Cats
Pruritus, or Scratching and Itching, in Pets
Pyodermas, or Skin Infections, in Pets
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.