A cat with a ringworm  infection on its nose.

Probably the worst thing about ringworm (aside from its terrible name and all it inspires) is the fact that it can be spread between humans and pets. Also known as a zoonotic disease, ringworm isn’t caused by a worm or parasite. Instead, the disease is the result of fungi and requires prompt and thorough handling. Ringworm in pets can present some surprising symptoms, and fortunately can be treated once diagnosed.

Fungal Infection

Ringworm in pets is common, although cats are typically diagnosed more than dogs. Research shows that about a quarter of human ringworm infections are connected to an organism that causes ringworm in cats. 

In other words, if a pet cat has ringworm, the chances of fungal infections in people is likely. Small children, elderly individuals, and those with compromised immune systems are more likely to experience infection. Other animals, such as guinea pigs, goats, cows, horses, and pigs, can also get ringworm and pass the infection to humans. 

How Is It Spread?

The fungi that cause ringworm are called dermatophytes. The most common dermatophyte is known as Microsporum canis. This fungi thrive in warm, moist conditions, like soil or fabric, and attach to skin and hair cells. Direct and indirect contact with the fungi can lead to ringworm infection. 

Touching an infected animal can be responsible for spreading it, but bedding, food dishes, toys, and other objects can also be contagious.

An infection of the superficial layer of the skin, nails, and hair, ringworm in pets can multiply and cause round lesions all over the body.

Appearance of Ringworm in Pets 

Red, flaky-looking skin, itchiness, dandruff, hot spots, or patchy hair loss are the most common physical signs of ringworm in pets. Tender paws or nails may also show signs of redness or sores. 

Typically, ringworm infection will stay local to a certain area. However, if left alone, the disease can spread throughout the body. 

If your pet is currently battling another illness, or on a medication that suppresses immunity, they may be at higher risk of ringworm infection if exposed. 

Don’t Wait

Because ringworm in pets can cause discomfort and anxiety, it is critical that they be examined and diagnosed right away. Plus, because it is highly contagious, ringworm must be stopped from spreading to other animals and people in the house. 

The good news is that most cases of ringworm in pets can be treated by topical medications (applied directly to the skin). If necessary, oral antifungal medications can treat a severe or resistant strain of ringworm. 

Pet owners must disinfect the home and other animals to prevent the spread. All items must be washed and the areas frequented by a ringworm-positive pet should be vacuumed and cleaned thoroughly.

Pets should be separated in a form of quarantine until the risk is averted. 

It Will Be Okay

Due to its highly contagious zoonotic nature, ringworm in pets is not only uncomfortable and potentially painful, but it’s inconvenient as well. However, because the variety of sources range from the soil to other people and animals, it is incredibly common. 

Always wash your hands after petting unfamiliar animals and regularly disinfect household pet bedding, clothing, toys, and more. Promptly dispose of any pet hairs caught in their brush and vacuum routinely. 

We hope that with this information, you and your pet stay safe from ringworm infection. If you have additional questions, our staff at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is always here for you.