Despite its misleading name, ringworms are actually a fungus infection that causes red and itchy patches on the skin and causes hair to fall in affected areas. Not only humans but pets of all kinds can be infected with ringworm. Since it is very contagious, it can be very easily transmitted from pets to humans and vice versa. This makes it very important for it to be diagnosed and treated properly.
How to Identify a Ringworm Infection?
In pets, the infection causes the hair to become brittle and easily break leading to the development of ring-like bald spots that may be mildly inflamed or appear crusty. Typically, the infected areas involve the legs, ears, and face, and may even deform the claws as they grow. The itchiness of the skin is not a result of the ringworm fungus but occurs due to secondary infections by bacteria. Some animals may not show any visible signs but can cause the infection to spread. Typically, ringworm is spread by contact with the infection carrier or items like brushes and bedding that has been in contact with it. The potential for infection remains long after the fungal spores are released into the environment.
Diagnosis of Ringworm
A fungal culture is the best way of diagnosing ringworm. The process involves plucking of a few hair strands from the lesions and letting the organism grow in a culture medium for an extended time, though five days are sufficient to yield a preliminary result. Another quick but not so reliable method is to use a Wood’s lamp to examine the lesion; if the lesion glows yellow-green under the ultraviolet light, ringworm infection may be likely. All humans and pets in the same household where a ringworm infection has been diagnosed should be tested and treated, if necessary.
Ringworm infections are typically self-limiting, which means that given enough time, the infection will get cured without requiring any treatment. However, an active treatment plan will cure it faster and restrict its spread. Topical medicines may be applied after clipping or shaving the fur in the affected area; the medications include anti-fungal sprays, shampoos, creams, and a lime-sulfur dip. There are a number of oral medications; the most popular is itraconazole as there are fewer side effects compared to Griseofulvin.
Infected pets should ideally be confined, and the areas frequented by the pet vacuumed thoroughly. Toys and bedding should be washed in hot water. Rugs and carpets should preferably be disposed of and exposed surfaces, including kennels, disinfected with an antifungal spray or dilute chlorine bleach. Periodic cleaning and disinfecting till the infection has been contained should be done. Fungal cultures need to be undertaken after the lesions have disappeared and treatment stopped only after confirmation of negative results.
It can be very difficult to prevent pets from being infected with ringworm as it is not only highly contagious but the fungal spores can remain active for many months altogether. Getting tests done at regular intervals will help in early detection and treatment.
Author Bio: Tim Bailey is a vet with considerable experience. His clinic is among the most popular in the area. Tim is a consultant vet to PrimpPlay, a leading grooming center for pets.