Chris noticed a round, red, itchy patch of skin on his shoulder. Knowing it was ringworm, he immediately blamed his local gym for the cause of the infection. But he soon realized that he caught ringworm from his newly rescued barn cat—Duncan. Both he and Duncan were about to take a trip to their respective doctors.
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 encircling less affected skin. On animals, ringworm appears more 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 animal or from using another 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 him to the veterinarian for diagnosis. The veterinarian might inspect the cat’s hairs under a microscope to see the spores, or he may perform a culture where he would 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 veterinarian to treat ringworm in your dog or cat. Some studies showed that the monthly flea medication lufenuron 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 and 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 cat is being treated for ringworm and you’re disinfecting your house, you might want to keep the animal confined to a particular area until he is not carrying ringworm spores anymore. A follow up culture performed by the veterinarian will determine when his ringworm infection has resolved.