Ringworm is a common skin infection in both animals and people. Despite its name, ringworm isn’t caused by a worm at all! This condition is caused by a fungus which lives on the skin of many animals and in the ground. There are many different types of fungus that cause ringworm, but they all cause the same skin issues and are treated with the same medications.
In dogs and cats, ringworm appears as a crusty area of hair loss. The skin may be red in the area of hair loss as well. These spots are usually not itchy to our pets. Some pets can have an infection and never have any signs of it on their skin. In humans, ringworm looks like a red ring on the skin which has scales or crusts on the edges and is very itchy. Ringworm is very contagious and can be passed from pet to pet, pet to human, and human to pet.
Treatment for ringworm in dogs and cats involves anti-fungal medications taken orally and special shampoos called dips which are applied to the skin and hair. The most common dip used is lime sulfur. Pets are treated with these medications until they have had two negative fungal cultures. A fungal culture is when hair is plucked and placed in a gel specially made to grow ringworm.
Ringworm can survive in the environment for a long time, so cleaning is very important when treating it. Every area where the pet has been needs to be cleaned. This can be done by vacuuming very carefully, using bleach diluted in water to clean objects that can be wiped down, and washing fabrics and pillows twice in warm water. If the environment isn’t cleaned well, your pet will just get ringworm again.
If you suspect you or another person in your family has ringworm, keep the area covered and contact your health care provider right away.