Ringworm in Cats and Dogs: It’s Not a Worm!

As pet parents, we’re all familiar with parasite control. Managing fleas and ticks, heartworm, and intestinal parasites is a regular part of pet stewardship, but what’s ringworm? Did you know that it’s not a worm at all, and it can be transmitted between humans, cats and dogs simply by contact or even by touching a surface that has been contaminated?

What is it? Ringworm is a fungal infection that occurs in people, dogs and cats and in all domesticated animals that often appears as a circular blistery sore with a raised ring around the outer edge. There are several types of ringworm infections that can manifest different symptoms and appearances. In addition, some ringworm infections are species specific, while others can readily pass between species.

How can I recognize it in my pet? Ringworm fungus feeds on the keratin in the surface layers of skin, hair and nails. Lesions in dogs often are circular scaly patches, which result in circular patches of hair loss.

In cats, kittens are most commonly affected due to their less-developed immune systems or sometimes to an immune system disorder. It manifests as scaling and crusting mostly around the face, ears or extremities. Some cats may develop more serious skin ulcerations and nodules.

What’s the treatment? Because ringworm is so contagious, if anyone in your pet pack, including humans, is symptomatic, go to the doctor or vet immediately. When you get a diagnosis, your veterinarian will prescribe a treatment based upon the severity, the number of pets and children in the home and how complex it will be to clean the environment.

Infections must be treated in order to stop it from spreading to other pets and people.

Since the incubation period is seven to 14 days, and sometimes up to 21 days, pets in an infected household may be infected but not yet symptomatic. Once ringworm is active, it’s very important to stick to medical and cleaning protocol.

Treatments often include oral anti-fungal medications that work systemically and ointments or shampoos that work topically. Your pet’s skin may improve during treatment, but a fungal culture is the only way to determine if your pet is being cured of the fungus. Treatment usually lasts for at least six weeks and is usually only stopped after two consecutive ringworm tests come back negative.

If your pet lives in close proximity with others who are not infected, quarantine may be advisable until the infected pet is cured. However, just because a pet isn’t symptomatic, doesn’t mean he’s not infected. So with multiple pets, if one is infected, its best to test them all and many veterinarians recommend treatment for all of the exposed animals.

Eliminating environmental contamination: After treating your pet, or handling him, wash your hands thoroughly.  Fungal spores readily shed into the environment, so living spaces including furniture should be vacuumed and hard surfaces cleaned with a bleach/water solution ratio of 1:10 to 1:100. Since ringworm can be transmitted so easily to humans and especially to young children, it’s important to minimize exposure while your pet is being treated.

Super Smiley, blog dog, here, saying thank you to all the pet parents who take such good care of us. An infection like this can feel overwhelming just because of all of the precautions you have to take to get us better. I know a family that had two cats. They adopted a kitten that had ringworm and it took about two months, but the kitten got well and no one else got infected. So, you can do it! Listen to your vet, follow their plan and we will love you for it!

Until Next Time,
Woof and Super Smiles from
Super Smiley and Megan Blake, The Pet Lifestyle Coach®

After reading about the realities of ringworm, are you worried that your dog or cat might get it? Help keep their immune systems in top shape with vitamin and mineral supplements for dogs and vitamins for cats.

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