Ringworm is a fungal infection of the superficial layers of skin, hair and nails. Interestingly, the name ringworm comes from its characteristic appearance being a red, raised, round ring markings on infected patients. Don’t be mislead however, ringworm is not caused by a worm, and the marks can vary from the classical ring shape.
Both of the fungi that commonly cause ringworm in cats and dogs can be shared with humans, however some ringworm causing fungi are species specific. Transmission occurs through direct contact with an infected pet, another person or contaminated object. The fungal spores can remain dormant on bedding and brushes for many months, making infection possible long after it has been resolved on the patient.
It is actually possible for cats, dogs and humans to be in a carrier state of the disease and not show any symptoms at all. These individuals can then shed and infect others and perhaps even their owners, with a higher infection rate in multi-pet households.
Coming into contact with ringworm spores does not always result in infection, however. Healthy adults are usually resistant to infection while the elderly, kids and adults with skin sensitivities are particularly vulnerable. A short incubation period of between 7-21 days exists between infection and development of signs.
So, how will you know if your pet has ringworm? The patient themselves won’t itch or scratch, however you might notice a crusty scaling to the skin and hair loss in certain areas as the fungi causes fragility in infected hairs. Usual locations for ringworm lesions are head, chest and forelegs. Your vet will use a special ultraviolet lamp to confirm cases of ringworm.
Once diagnosed, treatment can be topical or oral. Environmental cleaning is recommended in conjunction with medical therapy which can last up to several weeks to truly get on top of the condition.
Please consult your local vet if your pet has a skin condition you’d like checked out. Better being safe than potentially contracting ringworm yourself!