For those of us that have owned pets all our lives, specifically cats, we should all be at least familiar with the term “Ringworm”. For those of us that live out in the “country” (i.e. Louisiana), we’ve all probably had that tell-tale raised, red, ringed patch at one time or another. But what is ringworm? Where does it come from? How does it affect my pet?
The term “ringworm” is actually very misleading. Those round, raised, scaly patches of skin are actually not caused by a worm at all. Ringworm is actually just a fungal infection of the skin, caused by a type of fungi called a “Dermatophyte”. They love warm, moist areas, and live in the keratin protein, or what we call the oils, that human and animal skin produce. When these Dermatophytes have the right conditions to grow rapidly, we end up with a type of fungal infection, depending on what type of fungi is present, where they came from, and on what part of the body is what determines the type of infection i.e. jock itch, athletes foot, etc.
DID YOU KNOW: Both athlete’s foot and jock-itch in humans are caused by the same type of fungi as ringworm. They have different scientific names and diagnosis depending on what part of the body in which they are present, but they are all caused by the “Tinea” dermatophyte.
Where does it come from?
Ringworm fungi absolutely love warm, moist areas, especially moist dirt in the summertime. Because of their proximity to the ground and their tendency to roll in the grass, our pets are much more likely to get ringworm than we are. Ringworm affects our pets in very much the same way it affects humans. Dogs and cats will get a very similar red, raised ring when an outbreak occurs. Not only is it a very unsightly patch, but these types of fungi also cause the hair to fall out, leaving a nasty bald patch where present. This is one easy way to help distinguish ringworm from a yeast infection. The type of fungi that causes yeast infections will also make a very red, raised rash, but it does not cause hair loss on its own. Hair loss from yeast is typically due to the animals constant scratching and may extend past the edges of the rash or not over the entire rash completely. Ringworm has a very distinct edge and baldness only affects that area
Most of the time, when a human incurs ringworm, it is because they have contracted it from a pet. Yes, ringworm is contagious, but not to the extreme. It doesn’t require quarantine or anything like that! It usually spreads when a person scratches their pet, gets some of the ringworm under the fingernails, and then scratches their own skin. Simply just touching the affected area isn’t a usual mode of transference. It generally takes actually getting the fungi into the top layer of our skin where it can grow and reproduce.
How do I treat ringworm in my pet?
The fungi that cause ringworm are susceptible to antifungal medications such as Ketoconazole and Chlorhexidine. Ketoconazole works well on several types of dermatophytes that cause common issues such as jock-itch, athlete’s foot, and scaly skin patches that are a result of seborrheic dermatitis. Chlorhexidine is a milder form of antifungal as well as an antibacterial and is very beneficial in the treatment of ringworm.
Ringworm can be itchy, and all the scratching can lead to dry, irritated and sometimes even cracked skin that is very susceptible to not just fungal infections, but also bacterial infections. Chlorhexidine is great at killing a multitude of bacteria and viruses that can further complicate a simple ringworm issue. Getting rid of all the microbes is imperative for proper healing to occur.
We recommend using products like our Derma-Soothe Medicated Shampoo with both Ketoconazole and Chlorhexidine and our Derma-Soothe Medicated Wipes with both ingredients. Bathe your pet in the medicated shampoo making sure to lather affected areas really well, and let it sit on the skin for as long as the pet will allow it. (We have pets too and know that it is rare for them to enjoy a bath!) Make sure you scrub beneath the nails really well. Ringworm can live under your pet's nails for a long time, and if you are not treating that area too, it is very likely that the infection will return.
After the medicated bath, you can follow up with the wipes twice a day for a few days or until the ringworm clears up. This is much easier than fighting the pet in the bath every day!
While treating your pet for ringworm, it is also a good idea to keep your pet from scratching as much as possible. If you happen to miss fungi under the nails (And it is very likely that you will), then your pet is probably going to “re-infect” his or herself. Use a product that has either Hydrocortisone or Pramoxine to help. Our Derma-Soothe Anti Itch spray contains both Pramoxine and oatmeal to help stop the itching and moisturize irritated skin.
If treated correctly, ringworm usually clears up in a week or two!
I hope you found this post helpful, and as always, make sure you consult your vet before using ANY new products on your pet!