Q & A – Recognizing Ringworm

Published in the August 2008, edition of the Western Horse Review.

Ring Worm

Photo by Christina Handley

Recognizing ringworm, explained by Dr. James Carmalt is an associate professor of equine surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. He is

a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, a Diplomate of the American Board.

Question: I am a race horse owner, and recently I noticed balding in the “arm pits” of my horse’s front legs. It is spreading down to her knees and the hair can be pulled right out in a clump! It looks like a molting bird. I noticed one of my other horses has two spots at the top of her tail in the rump area, and another owner’s horse has it on his neck. What is it, and how can it be cured? Is it contagious to humans?
Answer: Dermatitis in the horse is usually a case of pattern recognition (in most cases), and it’s difficult to determine a diagnosis from a written description. However, assuming that the skin underneath these spots is completely undamaged and that the horse is not rubbing or itching excessively, the most likely diagnosis is ringworm – a common fungal skin infection.

The horse should be bathed with an anti-fungal medication. Unfortunately, ringworm is incredibly contagious to other horses. Strict measures should be taken to ensure that feed and water buckets, tack, grooming equipment, etc., are not shared. The horse’s caregiver should wear gloves to ensure that the fungal infection isn’t inadvertently transferred to another horse.

Ringworm is a self-limiting disease, meaning that the horse will get over it in time. While the fungal infection isn’t usually transmissible to humans (unlike other species), it can occur and precautions should be taken.


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