Ringworm in shelters and rescues

by Sharon Kutsop

In many shelters and rescues, there is a constant battle against a potential ringworm invasion. Dr. Karen Dashfield, one of the speakers for Petfinder’s popular traveling Adoption Options seminars, lectured on this and other diseases recently in New Jersey. Dr. Dashfield stressed that the first step to winning the battle is recognizing ringworm in the first place. Unless it is recognized as being in the building, the animals will not be able to be treated and the spread of the fungus to other animals in you care, not to mention staff and volunteers, will not be prevented.

This is an example of ringworm on a human arm

Here is an example of a spot of ringworm on a human. It looks similar on an animal, but may be harder to see if the spot is small and the hair surrounding it is covering it up.

Ringworm is considered a zoonotic disease, meaning it can transfer from animals to humans. Contrary to popular belief, ringworm is not a worm at all – it is a fungal infection and it easily transfers from animal to animal, and animal to human. It causes raised, circular lesions which are often itchy. Since only about half of the fungi that cause ringworm glow under a blacklight, the most definitive way to diagnose a ringworm infection is through a culture. However, any animal suspected of having ringworm should be immediately quarantined and treatment started.

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Ringworm can be treated in numerous ways. You can apply topical ointments for an animal with just a small spot, there are a variety of oral medications for more severe infections, and for the extreme cases you may have to shave the animal and dip them. It is important to remember that the fungal spores fall off regularly so everything the animal has (blanket, toys, bowls) must be properly disinfected and washed daily. Staff and volunteers must take careful precaution to ensure they do not inadvertently spread the fungus themselves. Changing clothes and hand washing after leaving the ringworm quarantine area is vital to preventing the spread of the fungus. Always follow the protocols of your veterinarian when treating any disease.

For more tips on ringworm, please visit this article