Health and Nutrition

How to Identify and Treat Ringworm

Ringworm is caused by a specific type of fungus and not a worm. The name comes from a time when doctors believed a worm caused the infection. The name stuck with the disease long after it was discovered that the disease was caused by a fungal infection. The proper name for the disease is dermatophytosis, deriving from dermatophyte, the fungus that infects the skin.

Ringworm can be difficult to diagnose in pets because it looks like most skin lesions. Unlike the typical appearance of the raised round or ring like reddish brown lesion in humans, most ringworm infections in pets appear to be dry, grey, or pink with a scaly patch of skin. Ringworm is a contagious disease, and it is most seen in young children, elderly people, pets or immunocompromised patients (both human and animal). The disease is passed when spores get onto the skin and have a chance to grow. Moist environments will help fungus flourish (which is why athlete’s foot is such a common fungal infection). Most healthy people will not have a problem with ringworm infections, but if you notice any skin lesions talk to your physician.

The spores of these fungi are relentless and can survive in the environment for long periods of time. Pets infected with ringworm shed spores when their hair breaks off and falls into the environment. Some animals are carriers of the disease and never show any clinical signs. Some types of fungus can come from soil, so it is important to determine the type or species of the fungus to determine its source. Veterinarians will frequently perform some basic tests to make sure that your pet has dermatophytosis. A special lamp will cause the spores of the fungus to fluoresce. However, there are several species of the fungus that will not “light up” under special lighting. A fur sample could give your veterinarian a more precise diagnosis as to which species of fungus is causing the problem. Some skin lesions are so abnormal that your veterinarian will need a skin biopsy to get the proper diagnosis.

The key to any treatment protocol is commitment. Exterminating ringworm from your pet and his environment can be a challenge due to spores’ rugged nature. Your veterinarian will help you determine the best treatment protocol for your pet and home. Remember to follow the instructions and finish all the medications given because the visual evidence may go away before the infection is completely cleared.

Did You Know

Before the enactment of the 1978 law that made it mandatory for dog owners in New York City to clean up after their pets, approximately 40 million pounds of dog excrement were deposited on the streets every year.

Marie Antoinette’s dog was a spaniel named Thisbe.

Pekingese dogs were sacred to the emperors of China for more than 2,000 years. They are one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world.

Female dog bites are twice as numerous as male bites.

The name of the dog on the Cracker Jack box is Bingo.

The canine nose works one million times more efficiently than the humans.

The oldest breed of dog is the Saluki.

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