Hey everybody, Whinny here. Tony is back from his first vacation, and he’s scratching up a storm and leaving cat dandruff everywhere. His skin breaks out every spring, poor fella. That got me thinking that you humans are probably due for a series of blogs on various forms of equine skin funk.
Skin diseases can be a common problem for horses in Florida. While we all love the hot and sunny weather down here, the warm environment, bugs and rain can make it more likely for our horses to contract one of these diseases. Some of the most common skin diseases that affect our horses in sub-tropical climes are ringworm, rain rot, scratches (pastern dermatitis) and summer sores (habronemiasis). You know, all the things that make me glad I’m a mouse! These diseases are common and important enough that we will be devoting several blog posts to them. In this first installment, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about ringworm.
Ringworm, also known as dermatophytosis, can be a frustrating condition for several reasons including its unsightly appearance, contagiousness, and the cost of its treatment. You may not know, but even the name ringworm itself is a misnomer. This skin infection is actually caused by a fungus, not a parasite or ‘worm’. Clinical signs of a ringworm infection include loss of hair in a circular pattern, crusting, and hive-like lesions. As is the case for many other medical conditions, young horses and immunocompromised horses are more susceptible to the disease.
Whinny Wisdom: Ringworm is a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be passed from animals to humans. Therefore, diligent handwashing along with the use of gloves is recommended to protect yourself from contracting the disease.
Luckily, testing is available to help us determine if a lesion is actually ringworm. The most reliable test my docs use is a fungal culture. A less reliable diagnostic measure involves plucking hair from the infected area and examining it under a microscope. However, this method may fail to catch the disease because the sample needs to contain spores from the ringworm organism in order to identify the disease. Even if spores are not found, my docs will usually make a presumptive diagnosis of ringworm and will initiate treatment without a definitive diagnosis.
In some cases, ringworm can resolve spontaneously without treatment. However, deciding not to treat this disease is not the best approach, since the horse will still be contagious and spreading the disease during this time. The recommended treatment includes topical anti-fungals, such as dilute betadine baths, and topical creams. Griseofulvin is an oral paste that is also available and can be used in cases that do not resolve with diligent topical treatment.
Ringworm can be a frustrating disease since it is extremely contagious. It is easily passed from horse to horse through direct contact or through shared equipment such as grooming tools, sheets, and tack. I know you humans like to share, but sometimes it’s a bad plan. When treating a horse with ringworm the best practice is to disinfect equipment and housing using bleach. In addition, the infected horse should be quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease to other horses in the barn.
Ringworm can definitely be frustrating, but by following these best practices, you can cure your horse of this disease while preventing it from spreading to yourself or your other animals. Like me!
That’s it for this week!
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Whinny’s Wisdoms is the official blog of Whinny the Clinic Mouse at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!