Saturday, July 18, 2009
By Anna Lee
You have probably heard of ringworm, and you most likely associate it with kids. I always did too, until recently. Contrary to what its name implies, ringworm is not caused by a worm. It’s caused by a type of microscopic fungi that live and spread on the top layer of the skin and on the hair. They prefer to live in warm, moist areas such as swimming pools and in skin folds. Athlete’s foot is a form of ringworm; between the toes is warm and moist skin where the fungus grows.
You may not know this, but it’s not uncommon for a dog to get ringworm. This fungal organism attacks the skin, then invades the hair shaft and feeds on the protein in the hair and skin. It will initially show up as dry flaky skin, broken hair and bald patches, typically on the ears and front legs. Abby had a few on her front leg, several around her neck and more down her back. According to my vet, cats do not show signs of ringworm, but they are carriers. Here is how I learned about ringworm.
Not long ago I noticed Abby had a large spot where hair was missing and it happened overnight. The skin was not raw or red, rather it was dry and was a perfect round circle. My first and immediate thought was another hot spot. I got out the container of formula that I used during the hot spot episode last summer. I kept her out of the pool, which was heartbreaking for her! After a few days the spots started to multiply. Naturally the worst of it happened over the weekend as more and more areas became hairless.
First thing Monday morning I called the vet for an appointment for that afternoon. I remained calm until we got there, assuming she just had a rather bad case of hot spots. After he examined Abby he said there were not hot spots, but ringworm. He then explained the causes, symptoms, and treatment for ringworm.
We were instructed to:
1. Cut away the hair from each area to allow air to get to the spots.
2. Bath her twice the first week with a special medicated shampoo made especially for ringworm (the vet sells the shampoo).
3. Give her one anti-fungal pill a day for 7 days. This is the same compound used for ringworm in humans.
4. Return to the vet in a week for further evaluation.
We decided to get her first bath at their facility the following morning. They shaved the spots, bathed her and dried her thoroughly; it was well worth the $15 charge.
The vet explained that when these round areas begin to heal they do so from the inside out. That causes a “ring” to form, thus the name ringworm. Two days later the rings started to form and I felt like we were making good progress. The next step was for us to give her the second bath at home.
We bathed her according to instructions: wet her down, lathered her up well, left the lather on for 10 minutes then rinsed well and repeated all steps. The next step is important: dry the dog thoroughly.
We returned to the vet in a week, and he said she was healing nicely. He also said that since ringworm is slow to get started, it is also slow to get rid of. He ordered more pills for us, a month’s worth this time. But the good news is that she could swim, as this will not hurt her or slow the healing. We were told to continue with the baths twice a week and to return in three weeks.
The vet’s assistant called us three days later to let us know that the hair sample taken previously proved it was officially ringworm. We were glad to know our vet was right with his diagnosis. Unfortunately, new rings have formed since that visit. After speaking with the vet on the phone we increased the baths to every other day. She was also put back on her allergy meds to help keep the skin calm. The original spots look like they are healing. The newest spots do not appear as severe as the original spots were when they started. We don’t have a clipper but I did manage to cut the hair away from the spots so that the air can get to them.
The vet reiterated that this is a long process and we have to be diligent. We are maintaining the bath schedule and making sure she gets her meds. Other than that her life hasn’t changed much. She is still a happy-go- lucky lab despite her outward appearance! She’s also not lost her appetite for CANIDAE® Snap-Biscuits dog treats. Our next appointment isn’t for a few weeks, and hopefully by then the worst will be behind us.
Read more articles by Anna Lee