Ringworm in pets is a very common problem. Many pet owners believe that worming their pet against worms and heartworm will keep this problem under control but unfortunately this is not correct.

What is the cause of ringworm then?

Ringworm is a fungal disease that affects dogs, cats and other mammals. It can affect any part of the body including the nails and is often found in long coated cats and young, old, immuno compromised or debilitated animals.

What are the symptoms of ringworm?

Typically your pet will develop a round non itchy lesion with loss of hair. It tends to affect mostly the face, neck and paws but can be found anywhere on the body. The animal is not sick in any way but the coat looks unkempt and “moth eaten”. Sometimes ringworm can appear as scales or a fleshy lump or can get itchy and infected.

Why is ringworm that important?

Ringworm is a disease that we can catch from our pets and it will cause similar lesions on our body. It is usually not hard to treat but it tends to spread quickly and the whole family can get it. Additionally, it contaminates the environment long term and can be very hard to eradicate once it sets in.

The incubation period for the ringworm (time from contact with the affected animal until the disease appears) varies. It can be up to 1 month in some cases.

How is ringworm diagnosed?

The age of the animal and appearance of the lesion are often sufficient to establish a diagnosis. However, your vet may use UV light to check the bald spots which sometimes glow greenish when exposed to the UV light. Some strains of ringworm do not glow under UV light so the vet has to have a look at hair samples (trichogram) or do a fungal culture.

How do I get rid of it?

This can be the hard part. Your pet will usually be treated by appropriate antifungal ointment, tablet or wash. Also a weekly bath with a special shampoo may be needed. Long coated pets sometimes have to be clipped to make the treatment easier for the owner.

The environment must be thoroughly treated. Vacuuming( the bag must be removed from the vacuum cleaner once finished), washing bedding in on a hot water cycle and bleach can help to reduce the population of ringworm spores but in some cases it is easier to throw away  the bedding and cloth toys.

Should you contract ringworm from your pet, you must contact your doctor and get it treated.

You are very likely to be asked to bring your pet for a recheck after 2-4 weeks of commencing the treatment to make sure the treatment is working and the bald spots resolving. Your pet could be treated up to 8-12 weeks until all the symptoms resolve.

What can I do to avoid my pet contracting ringworm?

This can be rather hard because of the long incubation period but most of it is common sense.

  • Do not buy pets with the symptoms of ringworm.
  • Be careful when getting stray animals, they often have ringworm.
  • Be proactive and if concerned ask for help or advice. We are always happy to provide you with basic advice over the phone but the pets have to be examined and treated as needed.