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Dermatophytosis, otherwise known as “ringworm,” is
a fairly common fungal infection that can affect dogs, cats, and
“The term ‘ringworm’ actually comes from the circular, ring-like
lesion formed on the skin of infected people; however, the disease
itself is not caused by a worm at all,” said Dr. Alison Diesel,
clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
Dermatophytosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it not only can
be transmitted to other animals, but to people as well. An animal
or person can become infected with dermatophytes from contact with
another infected animal, transfer from infected materials such as
bedding and grooming equipment, or from the soil.
“Very young animals and older animals with other underlying
illness are at higher risk for dermatophytes,” said Dr.
Diesel. “Additionally, certain breeds of animals, such as
Persian and Himalayan cats, and Jack Russell and Yorkshire
terriers, have a higher tendency towards disease development.”
Dermatophytosis is the most common cause of alopecia, or
hairloss, in cats. In addition to poor hair coat, it can also cause
reddened skin, hyperpigmentation, and lesions.
“Lesions will often involve little red bumps called papules,
scabs, and circular areas of hairloss. Anywhere on the body
may be affected by hairloss, but face and paws will often have
lesions,” said Dr. Diesel.
Because of this infection’s ability to spread all over the
animal’s body and infect others, you should be sure to see your
veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. A common way for veterinarians
to diagnosis dermatophytosis is with a Wood’s lamp exam. This
involves passing a fluorescent light source, or Wood’s lamp, over
the animal and looking for glowing hair shafts. However, only a few
strains of dermatophytes may glow, so this is not always considered
to be the best approach.
“A better option for diagnosis is to perform a culture for the
organism,” said Dr. Diesel. “Infected hairs or material may be
collected by plucking hairs or brushing the animal with a new
toothbrush and then submitting these hairs to a laboratory for
Although your pet may be able to self-cure the disease on their
own, therapy is typically recommended to minimize the amount of
infective material present and thereby minimize spread of disease
to others. “Treatment may involve strictly topical therapy
with antifungal agents (such as lime sulfur) or may also involve
oral antifungal medication as well,” said Dr. Diesel.
Treatment of exposed animals and other animals in the household
should be considered in order to prevent the spread of infection.
If you are concerned that your pet may have dermatophytosis,
particularly if skin disease is noted in people in the household,
you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
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