What is ringworm?
Although the name might suggest otherwise, ringworm is not caused by a worm but it is in fact caused by fungi called dermatophytes which feed on the dead cells of the skin, hair and nails, and then spread. Most ringworm cases in pets are caused by the dermatophyte known as Microsporum Canis (M Canis).
How is this skin disease caught?
Ringworm is extremely contagious and your pet will usually contract it by coming into contact with an object or other animal that holds the infectious spores; such objects can include grooming tools, bedding or clippers. The spores will attach themselves to the skin and then germinate to invade any already broken or grazed skin/hair, developing sore lesions. If there is another animal in your house that already has ringworm, then any other pet in your house will most likely have caught it from them. Kittens are usually quite susceptible to developing it, especially if they are allowed outside. Although there is no exact explanation for this, it is widely believed that should they catch it, then their immune systems are not fully developed or strong enough to fight of the infection.
How do I know if it’s ringworm?
The appearance of ringworm is exceedingly varied and so as a result it can often be hard to tell if your pet has the disease. With some pets that have it, the lesions can be severe in appearance and present themselves as an irritated scaly piece of skin; this area is very sensitive and shouldn’t be touched. The hair around the ringworm can either be very rough, broken or completely gone. Other lesions can be much less severe and as a result can sometimes be mistaken as feline acne or flea allergies.
A vet will be able to tell if your pet has ringworm by running a series of diagnostic tests that will be able to determine if M Canis or another dermatophyte is present. A diagnosis should never be made on appearance alone as the skin condition can look like other skin afflictions like the ones mentioned earlier.
Once the diagnosis of ringworm has been made your vet may prescribe either tablets (to be administered with food) or ointment (to be rubbed into your pet’s coat). Healing time can vary between 6 weeks up to 3 months, sometime longer, depending on the severity of the case.
It is important to remember that a pet with ringworm is highly infectious and so should be treated as such.
- When handling your infected pet always use gloves and wash your hands afterwards.
- If there are any children in your household then make sure they stay away from and don’t touch your pet.
- Disinfect and wash any fabrics that your pet has come into contact with such as their bedding and soft toy. It can also be a good idea to wash their food and water bowls.
- Make sure to dust and hoover regularly to get rid of any ringworm spores
- The key is to be employ caution and be aware of where your pet is and what he or she is up to. It may be worth restricting your pet to only certain rooms in your house whilst treating the ringworm.