Ringworm In Your Dog, Cat
Or Other Pet
|You will find some other causes of hairloss in pets here|
Ron Hines DVM PhD
Not all cat hairloss problems are ringworm. Read about other causes here.
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What Is Ringworm ?
Ringworm is not a worm - it is a fungus. It often assumes a ring-like, scaly, reddened shape on your pet’s skin. There are three major types, Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. In dogs and cats microsporum are the most common forms I encounter. The groups of three are also referred to as dermatophytes.
All mammals can contract ringworm – including you! I see it most frequently in cats but I also commonly see it in rabbits, dogs, chinchillas and hedgehogs. All animals, unless they are immuno-supressed, eventually become immune to ringworm and do not show further signs of the disease. This recovery often takes several months.
longhaired cats - often have multiple ringworm sites on their bodies.
I see it most often in kittens - particularly those that have been stressed
or housed in large colonies. Dogs often have only a single lesion and,
again, it is most common in puppies and immature dogs. Cats that recover
from ringworm often remain carriers of the fungus with no external signs.
Because it can transfer to humans, it is best to wear gloves when treating
ringworm or playing with infected pets. I scan all new puppies and kittens
for ringworm with my ultraviolet lamp on their first visit to my hospital.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ringworm ?
Ringworm fungus does not penetrate normal skin. The fungus spores are passed into a scratch or scrape on the same or different animal. The usual source is a carrier pet that shows no signs of the disease. Not all pets in a household that are exposed to ringworm develop the disease. Some pets never become infected while others do become infected but develop no overt signs of the disease. Some of these animals go on to become silent carriers that spread the disease to others. Another common method of transmission is contaminated grooming supplies and electric hair clippers. Almost all dogs and cats that become infected with ringworm eventually cure themselves even if left untreated. Some cases, however, are persistent and do need medical treatment. I treat all cases.
suspect ringworm but the hair shafts do not fluoresce, I pluck some
hairs from the spot for further examination. I place them into potassium
hydroxide solution to clear them and I look for fungus growing within
the hair shafts. If this test is negative and I still suspect ringworm
I place some affected hairs in a special fungal isolation jell (sabouraud’s
agar) to see if it will grow. The fungus is slow to grow and I wait
three to four weeks before I am certain this test is negative.
pets should be separated from those that show no evidence of the disease.
I like to clip the area of the infection and then vigorously scrub it
frequently with “tame” iodine (povone iodine, Povidine,
Betadine) scrub. Do not use tincture of iodine. Iodine scrub kills fungus
(fungicidal) and also removes much of the infected skin flakes that
spread the disease.
In persistent cases I now use one of the imidazoles drugs, itraconazole (Sporanox 0.75-1.5mg/lb/day for twenty days). This drug is considerably safer than grisiofulvin. It is quite expensive in the United States.
A vaccine to prevent or lessen the severity of ringworm is marketed by Wyeth’s Fort Dodge division. I have no experience with this vaccine. Its major use is in catteries and sanctuaries that have continuing problems with this fungus. Also, an Israeli veterinarian noticed that cats in catteries in Israel that received a flea-control medication, lufenuron (Program, 50mg/lb every two weeks) had less ringworm. Results of treating ringworm with lufenuron in the United States have not been as dramatic.
A good household antifungal disinfecting solution is a one in twenty solution of household bleach and water. You must not use it on your pets or introduce them back into the area until the smell of bleach has completely disipated.