They call it ringworm because Ringfungus sounds GROSS! But, truth be known, ringworm is a skin condition caused by a few species of fungus (dermatophyte) rather than a worm. On human skin, the lesions can look like targets or concentric rings (hence the name). On animals, the lesions can be circular or ovoid. The areas have lost fur and appear red, dry and scaly.
Some species of dermatophyte are found only in certain areas of the world; others more commonly affect one species of animal over another. The organism we see most often in veterinary hospitals is Microsporum canis. This dermatophyte can be transmitted from pet to pet, as well as to people.
Cats and dogs are “reservoir” hosts of these organisms. In a healthy, stress-free environment, the organisms exist on these animals but do not cause disease. The organisms can overgrow if the animal is ill or living in a stressful environment. If lesions develop, the dermatophyte can be transmitted to other animals or people via contact with the lesions.
Proper diagnosis is necessary to treat ringworm effectively. Treating a fungal infection requires specific medication and can take longer because fungi reproduce more slowly than bacteria.
Veterinarians will start with an examination of the pet. Samples can be collected from the lesions to rule out other conditions of the skin. As well, fur samples can be placed in a culture media-rich in nutrients, in hopes of growing the organism over a period of 2-3 weeks.
If a pet is diagnosed as having ringworm, we caution clients about proper handling of their pet in the home. Wearing gloves when treating or cleaning the lesions is essential. Washing hands after handling pets, even if the owner does not contact a lesion, is important. In multi-pet households, keeping pets from contacting each other is tough, but necessary if the transmission is to be avoided.
Ringworm is a biological organism that is very interesting but can become quite annoying if a family pet or family member develops an infection. If you see any dry, scaly areas of hair loss on your pet, call us at 204-269-8162.
Written by: Tara, RVT
1. Mario Pasquetti et al, “Infection by Microsporum canis on Paediatric Patients: A Veterinary Perspective”, Vet Sci, 2017; Sep 4(3)