Ringworm, also known as dermatophytosis, is certainly not something that any of us like to think about, especially when it comes to our beloved pets. It’s a fairly common condition, though, which means that it’s something that pet owners (especially cat owners) should know at least a little bit about.
The first thing to know about ringworm is that, although the name does suggest that it’s a parasitic worm of some type, it’s actually a fungal infection. The fungus feeds on keratin, which is a component of your skin, nails, and hair.
Besides cats and people, ringworm is also commonly diagnosed in other companion animals, as well as some farm animals (such as sheep or cattle). Why is ringworm so terribly common?
Because it is TERRIBLY CONTAGIOUS!
If one pet in the home has been diagnosed with ringworm, it’s important that you understand that the other humans and pets in the home have also been exposed. In many cases, house mates will begin to show signs shortly after the initial pet was diagnosed, if they aren’t showing signs of infection already.
On the off chance that your family’s case of ringworm has been confined to a single pet, you should take the following precautions right away:
- Be proactive. Even if they are not showing signs of ringworm, bring all other pets to your family veterinarian for an exam. Be sure to be courteous to other patients of the clinic, though. Inform the staff that your pet is potentially carrying a highly contagious infection so that they may take the necessary precaution to protect other pets in the hospital.
- Use an anti-fungal cleaner to disinfect the patient’s home environment as thoroughly as possible. This means that you should throw away any items that may be too difficult to clean. It also means that any home textiles, such as curtains, sheets, and bedding, should be washed and dried appropriately. It’s a major undertaking, but it’s entirely necessary. (Note: There are cleaners available today that claim to be effective in treating ringworm in the home environment. If you need recommendations on which ones will work, ask your family veterinarian for suggestions.)
- Speak with your family’s human medical doctor about the situation with your pet’s diagnosis. There are certain medications and medical conditions that make you or your family more susceptible to ringworm infection, so it’s a good idea to let your doctor know.
- Avoid taking your pet to public places until the infection has been completely eliminated. Again, this is a courtesy to your fellow pet owners.
Throughout the course of your pet’s infection, be sure to follow your vet’s advice closely. Left untreated, ringworm can become a very severe and unmanageable problem.