Ringworm in Pets

Not Really a Worm At All
Ringworm, technically called dermatophytosis or dermatomycosis, is a skin condition that can be transmitted between people and pets. It is caused by one of several kinds of microscopic fungal organisms. The disease gets its confusing name from the fact that a common symptom in people is the appearance of a reddish ring on the skin which was once thought to be cause by a worm.

Ringworm in Pets
Ringworm fungi can infect dogs, cats, rabbits, farm animals, and other mammals. Pets with ringworm often have areas of hair loss. The skin in these areas may become crusty or scaly, and the hair breaks off easily. The lesions increase in size quickly and can spread over the entire body. However, some infected animals, especially cats, do not show any symptoms at all.

Ringworm is diagnosed by the appearance of the lesions, plus the results of one or more tests. Some types of ringworm will glow under ultraviolet light. Hairs or a skin scraping from the affected area can be examined under the microscope to look for the fungal organisms. The most sensitive test is culturing; hairs are applied to a growth media and observed for development of the ringworm fungus.

Mild cases of ringworm can be treated with topical antifungal creams. Sometimes it is beneficial to shave the affected area prior to application of the medication. Antifungal shampoos and dips are also available. In more severe cases, hair is shaved from the entire body of the pet and repeated shampoos or dips are performed. Oral medication may also be prescribed in these more serious cases. A ringworm vaccine is available for cats but is not helpful in all cases your veterinarian can advise you whether it would be of benefit.

A telltale ring-like marking on the skin is the most common sign of ringworm in people. Lesions can be seen on the skin or on the scalp. In people, the disease is also called tinea. Most people recover quickly from this condition, especially with treatment.

Ringworm in people is mainly diagnosed by the appearance of the lesions, but a skin scraping may be performed to confirm the disease.

Most human cases of ringworm are treated with a simple antifungal cream applied to the lesion. Keeping the skin clean and dry is also helpful. Because people are not as hairy as pets, the condition is more easily treated in humans, and most people recover within a few weeks. People who are properly applying antifungal medication are generally not considered contagious during treatment. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, it is usually OK to go to school or work.

Preventing the Spread of Ringworm
Ringworm is highly contagious. The fungus produces spores on the skin or hair these tiny spores can fall off and survive in the environment for long periods of time. People and pets may be exposed to the spores by contact with other people, pets, or soil. Ringworm can be spread by objects such as brushes, combs, unwashed clothing, and in showers and pools.

People most commonly get ringworm from other people. Avoid sharing brushes, combs, or clothing. Wear sandals when using public showers. Keep your skin and hair clean and dry.

Animals can also be an important source of infection. Avoid handling stray animals showing signs of ringworm. Pets with signs of ringworm should be seen by the veterinarian, tested, and treated. During treatment, minimize handling of the animal and keep it separate from other pets. Infected pets can be contagious even after the obvious symptoms have resolved, so it is important to use medications for the full duration prescribed and see your veterinarian for follow-up testing. Some animals, most commonly cats, can be carriers of ringworm without showing symptoms. If you become infected with ringworm and the source of infection is unknown, your doctor may recommend having your pets tested.

Disaster Preparedness For Pets

Taking your animals with you in an evacuation requires some forethought and planning. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Each year we see disasters in various forms all across the country. Tornadoes, floods, fires, hurricanes, blizzards and more can disrupt our lives and our families. In many families, that includes our animals.

When you consider gas leaks or toxic spills and acts of terrorism you realize anyone can be affected by a disaster. You could be told to leave your home for a short time, only to find the situation keeps you away from your home for weeks. If you do not take your animals with you, an evacuation of your family could mean another disaster back at home with your pets.

Because events occur quickly and decisions are made fast, you need to have a plan for yourself and your animals in case of a disaster.

First, acquaint yourself with the types of disasters that can affect your area. Then develop an evacuation plan for your animals. For pets this may mean putting the small animals in a carrier and into the car for immediate evacuation. For farm animals, you would need to have an appropriate trailer handy and know where you can take each animal to be away from the danger and where they can receive proper care. This takes some thought and planning.

In case you are not at home at the time of a disaster, place stickers on the front and back of your home or barn to notify neighbors or emergency personnel that animals are on your property and where they can find your evacuation supplies. Include a list of the number, type and location of all your animals. Have leashes, carriers and halters near by and easy to find.

If you have a friend or neighbor that you trust and is willing to help, let them know where they can find a key to your property and pre-arrange with them to take care of your animals in case you cannot get back home for some time. This is another reason to have supplies ready and easy to find.

Be sure all your animals have proper identification. Rabies and ID tags are the best form for small animals. Microchipping is becoming a popular form of animal identification. An ID tag on a halter works well for large animals.

An animal carrier and an evacuation kit are the two most important things to have ready in advance. Have your evacuation kit near the carrier or cage and keep the items in it fresh. This allows for fast action. For an evacuation all you would need to do is put your pets in the carrier and grab the kit. An old overnight bag or back pack works well.

Some of the items to keep in your animal’s evacuation bag:

Leashes
Food
Bottle of water
Gloves and muzzles
Paper towels
First aid kit
Veterinary records
List of contact phone numbers including your cell and prearranged evacuation spot, your veterinarian, local humane society, and friends
Towels for clean up or bedding
Trash bags
A letter signed by you giving others the authority to treat your pets in your absence.

When an evacuation order is issued, what are the steps you should take?

Bring all pets inside
Make sure they all have ID tags on
Get all pets into their carriers
Grab your evacuation kits
Get everyone into the car
Leave as soon as possible with your pets in the car
Along the way, call your pre-arranged evacuation site.
Let friends know where you are going

When you return, what should you do?

Look around both inside and out for dangerous objects, animals, or chemicals.
Let your pets have access to the indoor areas only until you can evaluate the outside areas for safety.
Don’t let animals engorge themselves with food or water when you get back.
Return to a normal routine slowly.
Let your pets rest and sleep
If your pets are lost, call shelters daily and visit lost pet web sites often.

If there has been any injury or exposure to questionable substances, call your veterinarian for a health exam.

As we have seen in several wide spread disasters, many people will not evacuate without their pets. Leaving your home with your family and pets in an emergency is smart, but takes pre-planning and thought.

Plan now and be able to act fast when minutes count. Your veterinarian can help you with this planning

Hope this helps

Debra Garrison. DVM

Ringworm in Cats

Ringworm is not a worm but a form of a microscopic  fungus that affects animals and humans. Technically called dermatophytosis or dermatomycosis, the name ringworm was given because the ringworm lesion on people sometimes appears as a reddish circular area surrounding a crusty spot and it was once thought to be caused by a worm.

Ringworm is caused by many different species of fungus that can be picked in the environment or from other infected animals.  The most common species of  ringworm is caused by Microsporum Canis. The lesions can vary in appearance from patchy hair loss, to crusty spots to no signs at all.

Ringworm in your cat can sometimes be diagnosed with a woodslight (ultra violet light or blacklight). The fungus growing on the hair shafts will glow a lime green color when exposed to the light. Sometimes, the fungus cannot be detected by the light and special fungal cultures will have to be done. If there are lesions on the cat, a few hairs and crusts are placed on a special culture media to promote the growth of the fungus. If no lesions can be found and the owner suspects a cat for giving ringworm to the family, a sterile toothbrush is used to catch any loose hair and then the hair is placed on the culture media.

 

Anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks, if there was a fungus present it will grow on the media much like bread mold on old bread. The fungus also will turn the media a reddish color if it is M. Canis. The spores on the media are then microscopically examined with a special stain to verify the species of the fungus and to be certain it was not just an environmental contaminant.

If ringworm is verified on the cat or kitten, medicated shampoos can be used to help control the ringworm. Treatment is done for 6 to 8 weeks . Oral anti-fungal medications can also be used if the ringworm is generalized.  To avoid contaminating the environment with further spores, sometimes the cat will be shaved.

Most people do not get ringworm from their pet, but from the environment. The fungal spores are present at swimming pools, parks and anywhere where people congregate. If a pet is diagnosed with ringworm, treatment by medications will hasten recovery and further exposure to people and pets can be limited by environmental clean-up. If you have multiple cats in a household with the ringworm, clean-up will prove to be challenging.

  • All contaminated toys, food bowls, blankets, cages, scratching posts, bedding should be removed.
  • Any item that cannot be disinfected should be discarded or destroyed.
  • All items that can be washed should be washed with an anti-fungal soap, rinsed and then soaked in diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 30 parts water) for 10 minutes, and then repeated 3 more times.
  • Rooms should be cleaned including walls, ceilings, furnace vents, filters, under furniture, beds and refrigerators.
  • All surfaces should be vacuumed, scrubbed and bleached.
  • Change furnace and AC filters weekly.
  • Clean the ducts and vents with a commercial duct cleaner.
  • Rugs should be washed with an anti-fungal soap. Steam cleaning alone is not reliable, add a disinfectant to the solution to kill the fungal spores in your carpets.
  • Quarantine affected cats until the ringworm is gone.