Ringworm in pets: what you need to know

Ringworm is something most pet owners fear because it can be passed on to humans.  The good news is that it’s not as gross as it sounds. The not-so-good news is that getting rid of it requires a lot of cleaning. But if you work with your veterinarian, your pet can get better quickly.

What is ringworm?

Ringworm has a misleading name, because it isn’t a worm. It’s a fungal skin infection that can make your pet feel itchy and uncomfortable. Ringworm is also called dermatophytosis.

Is it caused by dirt?

No. Ringworm has nothing to do with cleanliness. Any pet can become infected, although young and old animals and animals with suppressed immune systems or allergies are more likely to get ringworm.

Can I get ringworm from my pet?

Yes. Be sure to wash your hands after handling any animals. If you notice red, itchy, scaly or ring-shaped patches on your skin, see your doctor.

What about my other pets?

Ringworm can spread to other pets, so all of your pets should be examined for signs of ringworm infection or as potential carriers. If possible, keep your pets with ringworm away from non-infected pets— ideally in an area that is easy to clean.

Is ringworm treatable?

Yes—ringworm is treatable. Your veterinarian will prescribe medication for your pet that will treat the infection, but you must disinfect your home as well.

How to rid your home of ringworm

• Clean all nonporous surfaces (like glass, plastic, metal and varnished wood) twice a week with diluted bleach.

• Vacuum carpeted areas where your ringworm-infected pets hang out.

• Clean floors and walls.

• Clean all of your pet’s bedding weekly in hot water.
• Throw away any bedding or upholstered items that are difficult to clean, including cat trees.
• Practice effective rodent control and reduce your pet’s exposure to rodent habitats.
• If your pet’s ringworm infection is severe, or if you have multiple infected pets, clean your home’s air ducts and vents and replace its air filters.

How can I prevent it in the future?

Avoid contact with animals that are infected with ringworm or are possible carriers of ringworm. And don’t let your dog dig or nose around in rodent burrows.