Ringworm in horses is troubling for their owners. It causes unsightly hair loss and spreads easily. Ringworm is also highly contagious, so it can pass from animal to animal easily upon contact and in some cases can be transmitted to humans. The name ringworm is not accurate because it is not actually a worm. Ringworm is a fungus that became known for its pattern, which resembles a worm in a circular shape. It is a very hardy viral fungus that can live for up to a year on objects and in soil, so prevention is often the best medicine for ringworm.
Signs and Symptoms
Ringworm is often confused with rain rot (rain scald), as the hair loss in patterns that resemble circular patches are common with both.
Hair surrounding the infected area, or during loss, often appears raised, or rough. Horses may rub or scratch because of the itching sensation surrounding infected areas.
Along with hair loss there are usually raised skin rashes that are red and can look like a red worm under the skin.
Diagnosis of Ringworm
Skin swabs examined under the microscope will show the presence of ringworm spores on hair shafts and skin cells.
Ringworm may "self-heal" if left untreated but can cause a continuous pattern of disease as it spreads from horse to horse and other beings, including humans in the area.
Best Treatment Strategy
Infected animals should be isolated to help control spreading of the fungus. Care should be taken when in contact with the infected animal for treatment or care to prevent spreading to its owner or caregiver. Anti-fungal shampoos should be used to treat the problem.