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Posted on 05-18-2012
Contrary to its name ringworm is not a worm. It is a fungus called Dermatophytosis. Because of the circular lesions made by the fungi they were thought to be caused by worms, hence the name ringworm. The fungi live on the surface of the skin and in the skin follicles feeding on dead skin, tissue and hair.
The usual symptom of ringworm is a round hairless lesion. The characteristic "ring" that we see on humans doesn't always appear as a ring on dogs and cats. This lesion will grow in size and often become irregular in shape. The fungi cause the hair shafts to break off and result in patches of hair loss. Ringworm is usually found on the face, ears, tail and paws. The lesions are scaly, may or may not be itchy and often the skin is reddened and inflamed.
Transmission can happen by direct contact with another infected animal or person. It can be passed from dogs to cats, cats to dogs, from pets to humans and vice versa. The fungal spores can live in the environment for a long time and can be found in carpets and bedding and can infect your pet when it comes in contact with them. The incubation period is 10-12 days. This means that following exposure to the fungus, about 10-12 days will pass before you start to see any lesions.
Humans can contract ringworm very easily. Simply petting or grooming an infected pet will cause ringworm to spread. Ringworm can also be found on cow, goats, pigs, and horses.
Veterinarians can not diagnose ringworm just by looking at the skin. In order to make an accurate diagnosis, our Chester Springs veterinarians will perform some tests. Ringworm is best diagnosed by doing a fungal culture. This means adding some hair and skin scraping material to a tube of growth material (culture) and seeing what grows on it. This can take several days to a few weeks. A Wood's lamp test is a quick in office test that uses an ultraviolet (black) light in a darkened room to see if the affected area will glow to a yellow-green, but his test can have a lot of false negative results.
In some pets, depending on the severity, ringworm will resolve itself in two to four months. However, treatment is recommended to save your pet from suffering and to decrease the time they are contagious. Shampoo therapy or Lime sulfur dips are used in almost every case of ringworm. It is common to shave some or all the hair on some pets to help the efficiency of treatment. There are also anti fungal cremes, such as Miconazole, Ketoconazole, and Chlorhexidene, that can be used on pets with ringworm.
If your pet has been infected with ringworm, it is crucial that you decontaminate the environment so a reinfection does not occur. Mix bleach with water and use on any surface allowed. Vacuuming on a daily basis will help get rid of the spores. When finished vacuuming everyday, make sure to dispose of the vacuum bag which will contain spores. If available, steam cleaning your carpets and furniture will help rid of spores that were not picked up by the vacuum. It is a good idea to keep your infected pet in one room of the house to prevent further spreading of the spores. It is important, if your pet has been laying on beds, to wash the bedding in very hot water. Wash his/her kennel down with a bleach solution, as well.
If your pet is having symptoms of ringworm, please call us at Eagle Animal Hospital and schedule an appointment. If you have any further questions, our office number is (610) 458-8789. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton, Glenmoore and surrounding areas.
Written by Alyson Kelly, veterinary technician
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