Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection caused by a fungal organism called Dermatophytes (It’s not caused by a worm at all!). Ringworm is common in cats and sometimes seen in dogs. Most importantly, it is a zoonotic disease, which means it can spread to humans and vice versa.

Who is more likely to get ringworm?
It is more commonly seen in:

  1. Younger animals (under 1-year-old), however, can also affect animals of all ages.
  2. Free-roaming animals/ scavenging animals
  3. Animals living in a warmer or more humid environment

What are the clinical signs?
When your cats and dogs are affected by ringworm, you may notice a small area of hair loss and discoloured skin covered by scales. The classical lesion on humans is usually a ring of red lesion with scales along the edges with a normal skin in the middle. The clinical signs tend to be worse in young animals and less severe in adults.

How is Ringworm diagnosed?
Ringworm lesions on animal skin are often not the classic ring-shaped like we see in humans. They are often not itchy too! To confirm suspicious skin lesion, your veterinarian may want to perform a few diagnostic tests:

  1. A Woods Lamp is often used as a screening test. If the lesion is heavily infected, the fur lights up fluorescent green under the Woods lamp. Negative result does not mean a negative infection! So if the fur does not glow, it doesn’t mean we can rule out the infection. It has been published in studies that only 50% of ringworm will fluoresce. Therefore, further testing is usually warranted.
  2. Taking samples from the fur and examining under microscope may reveal spores. Again, if the spores are found under microscope, we can confirm the infection but lack of spores does not rule out the infection. It might merely mean that the few hair samples we took didn’t have any spores on them.
  3. Fungal culture is ultimately the most sensitive test to diagnose ringworm. Fur samples from the affected area are taken and sent to a laboratory to be cultured. The downside of culture is that it takes at least 14 days for the culture to grow so the result is not available immediately.

How is Ringworm treated?
Your veterinarian will assess the most suitable treatment option for your furbaby. Ringworm is usually treated with some or all of the following:

  1. Oral medication (Griseofulvin)
  2. Topical antifungal medication
  3. Medicated shampoo (Malasseb)

Treatment length is dependent on the severity of the disease, which can sometimes take up to months.
It is very important to follow your veterinarian instructions on how to administer the medications. Furthermore, it is very important to continue the treatment as per your veterinarian advice even though the clinical signs have resolved. We recommend continuing treatment for at least 2-4 weeks after the skin lesions have resolved.

Elimination of ringworm from your house is a tricky business; particularly if you have more than one pet because the affected pet is constantly shedding highly infective spores into the environment. Vigorous clean up of the environment is the key to success.

    1. Separation of the animals is recommended by containing the affected animal to one room.
    2. Start with the mechanical removal through vacuuming and steam cleaning of the carpet. Inexpensive vacuum can be purchased and discarded once the ringworm episode has passed.
    3. Only a few products are effective at killing the spores. Bleach diluted to a 1:10 ratio is effective in removing 80% of the spores. Cleaning should precede bleaching as bleach is only effective on a surface free of dirt and grime.
    4. Decontamination of laundry/ pet bedding can be done by running them through the washing machine twice with or without bleach.
    5. How long will my furbaby be infectious?
      Affected animals can remain infectious for about 3-4 weeks with treatment. Without treatment, an animal can remain contagious up to 4-5 months!

    Where did my furbaby get this?
    They could have picked it up from anywhere! Ringworm fungi is extremely hardy and can live many years in the environment. Animals with clinical signs (bald patches), animals with fungi but no clinical signs (no bald patches), environment where affected animals have been are all possible sources of infection. Humans can also transmit ringworm to animals! The infection happens when ringworm fungi come in contact with damaged skin – cuts, grazed or moist skin.

    Should I be worried?
    We mentioned ringworm can spread to people. People with weak immune systems are prone to getting severe ringworm infection – children, elderlies, pregnant women, people undergoing chemotherapy are some examples. If your cat is diagnosed with ringworm and you are concerned, always speak to your human doctor.

    If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us on (02) 8484 2020. Thank you!

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