Ringworm, in contrast to the common belief that it is caused by a worm is actually an infection caused by fungus. The infection took its name from its usual ring-like appearance. The group of fungi that causes ringworm is called dermatophytes which live on the skin’s surface, hair and follicles then feed on dead skin cells. Humans are not the only potential victims of these infection-causing fungi but common house pets too. Microsporum canis is the most dominant type of fungus that causes ringworm in cats and dogs.
Transmission in Pets
Dogs and cats can get ringworm through transmission of the infection. These pets can get infected through direct contact with another infected animal or human. Ringworm can easily be transmitted from animal to human and vice versa. Pets can also get infected if came into contact with infected things such as beddings, grooming materials, toys, carpets, furniture among others, for the fungal spore can survive in them for quite a long time. In rare cases, cats and dogs can also get ringworm through contact with infected soil as the fungus can also live in soil for months
Ringworm in dogs and cats are more common in puppies, kittens and young adults because their immune system is not yet fully developed making them more prone to the infection. Healthy adult cats and dogs are usually resistant to ringworm infection.
Symptoms of Ringworm in Pets
The common symptom of ringworm in these house pets is a round and hairless lesion. The fungi break off the hair shafts, thus causing hairless lesions. These lesions may be scaly or crusting, and may sometimes be itchy or not. Ringworm may not be typically itchy but a secondary infection with scabs or crusts can lead to itchiness, which induces scratching and licking by these animals. Oftentimes, the lesions are red and inflamed. The sizes of the lesions may grow and the shape may become irregular. The usual areas affected by ringworm infection in cats and dogs are at the face, ears, paws and tail. Some pets may carry the ringworm infection but do not show any signs of symptoms
Treatment of Ringworm in Pets
Mild cases of ringworm in cats and dogs usually resolve in about two to four months. However, treatment should be done to prevent the progression and complication of the infection, and to prevent it from spreading to other pets and humans.
Ringworm treatment for dogs and ringworm treatment for cats are not so different. The treatment option for both cats and dogs will depend on the severity of the infection. Initial treatment for only a few areas affected requires the use of topical antifungal medications. Treatment usually takes about four to six weeks to prevent the infection from recurring. When more areas are affected, adding antifungal shampoos and dips may be necessary. Note that pets with long furs may need to be shaved for a more effective treatment.
For severe cases, ringworm treatment for dogs and cats may require veterinarians to prescribe the drug Griseofulvin. Although as with any other medications, Griseofulvin has side effects therefore close monitoring is done. Griseofulvin may also cause birth defects therefore it is not recommended for pregnant pets. Aside from treating the current infection, decontaminating the environment is also necessary to prevent recurrence.