Sad dog and cat laying on couch thinking about ringworm.

In addition to the many wonderful things shared by pets and their owners, they tend to share some unfortunate experiences, too. Zoonotic diseases, for example, can be passed by pets to their humans. Among these, ringworm in pets ranks pretty high on the list of common illnesses shared between the species. Contrary to what the name suggests, ringworm in pets isn’t a worm. It’s a fungal disease, and it can wreak havoc in households. 

The Benefits of Prevention

Ringworm in pets is a common skin infection caused by a fungus. People and other animals in contact with an infected pet can contract the fungus through a contaminated environment. 

Exposure doesn’t necessarily mean infection, but if the conditions are right the incubation period can be up to three weeks. Young and older individuals, and those with compromised immune systems, are more likely to develop ringworm infections. 

Unfortunately, the fungus can be shed in the absence of obvious symptoms, and can live on surfaces for over a year. Direct contact with an infected animal’s skin, food bowls, bedding, brushes, and other household objects can help spread the fungus. 

What Am I Looking At?

The reason that this fungus is called ringworm is because the infected areas are typically circular, or ring-shaped. In human cases, you might see an itchy red patch. As it expands, the inner part heals and the outer rim becomes red and inflamed. 

Ringworm in pets is similar, however, you may notice bald patches in the fur. Flaky dandruff is also a common symptom. 

Ringworm in Pets

Ringworm in pets falls under the category of dermatophyte, meaning that the fungus affects the hair shafts, superficial layers of skin, and the nails. As it persists, the fungus causes the hair to break and fall out, and inflames the skin. 

Ringworm in pets can also lead to scabby-looking skin and coarse hair. Left alone, ringworm spores can be shed in the environment and infect other animals and people in the house. 

Once diagnosed, ringworm in pets can be treated with various applications of sprays and/or dips. Depending on the severity, oral medication may be necessary to treat the fungal infection. Clipping or shaving the hair around the round red lesions is just as important as thoroughly cleaning a pet’s bedding and surrounding areas. Anything that cannot be disinfected should be thrown away. 

What Do I Do Now?

Having a pet with ringworm can be an incredibly frustrating uphill battle. Once you treat one infected animal, there may still be spores in the environment. 

Even when a pet receives aggressive treatment to combat ringworm, they can be contagious for about three weeks. If they receive intermittent treatment or applications that aren’t strong enough, ringworm in pets can last a long time, infecting (and possibly re-infecting) other members of the household. As a result, maintaining a strict quarantine during treatment is key to eradicating it. Without separation, you may end up treating all of your pets (and fellow humans) for ringworm infections. 

End of the Road

The fungus that causes ringworm in pets thrives in warm, damp environments. Your pet could pick it up in the soil, from other animals, and through a contaminated item or environment. Because of the potential damage to your wallet and sanity (not to mention your pet’s comfort), it’s best to act quickly. 
If we can assist you with any questions or concerns, please feel free to call us at (630) 355-5300. The pet experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are always here for you.