Catching Ringworm From Pets
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Ringworm is a common skin disorder otherwise known as tinea that can affect the skin on the body (tinea corporis), the scalp (tinea captitis), the feet (tinea pedis, or athlete's foot), or the groin (tinea cruris, or "jock itch"). Ringworm is not, as its name suggests, caused by a worm. It is caused by a fungal infection of the skin, and the fungi responsible for the infection are known as dermatophytes.
The fungi that cause ringworm tend to grow in warm, moist areas of the body, such as areas of frequent sweating. Most commonly, ringworm results in itchy, scaly, and reddened skin and bald patches if the scalp or beard areas are involved. The infection is highly contagious and is passed from person to person through direct skin contact or via contact with contaminated items such as toilet articles, clothing, and even by contaminated shower or pool surfaces.
Animals can also be affected by ringworm and may transmit the condition to humans. In this case, ringworm is an example of a zoonotic disease, or a disease transmitted from animals to humans. Although catsare affected by ringworm more than dogs, dogs are also commonly affected. In animals, ringworm causes raised, circular areas that frequently are crusted over and associated with hair loss. However, some infected cats may also carry the fungus without showing any symptoms. On the other hand, infected dogs almost always show the typical skin symptoms of ringworm.