By now you know that ringworm (tinea) in horses is not actually caused by a worm. Instead, it’s a fungal infection whose symptoms may include scaly, crusty areas of your horse’s skin or raised, hairless patches usually seen along the sides of the neck or on areas where your saddle and/or girth come in contact with your horse’s skin. The fungus responsible is of the Microsporum and Trichophyton species. But did you also know that discovering a case of ringworm doesn’t always mean that you have to rush to purchase the latest and greatest over the counter treatment?
The material contained in this blog is presented for information purposes only. The material is in no way intended to replace professional veterinary care. Any advice given cannot be used as the basis for a diagnosis or choice of treatment.
First things first. Sometimes, a case of ringworm can be mistaken for other types of fungal infections. Your veterinarian can make an accurate diagnosis by taking and performing tests from a scraping of skin from the infected area. However, if you are fairly confident that you have identified a case of ringworm in your horse these are the steps that I follow to treat it.
Step 1: Apply gloves. It is possible for a case of ringworm in horses to infect the animal’s human caregivers.
Step 2: Out come the clippers. I clip the hair away from the suspected area in order to allow it further exposure to sun and air and to create a larger area for the application of medication each of which will speed healing.
Step 3: I bathe the infected area with an iodine shampoo making certain to follow any indications for mixing or dilution on the bottle.
Step 4: I apply an anti fungal dressing. Here’s where it gets interesting. While there is any number of anti fungal treatments available on the shelves of your local tack or feed store I have personally had just as much success using any of the various athlete’s foot creams that are usually found sitting in my bathroom’s medicine cabinet. For me, their anti fungal properties have proven restorative.
After Care: Once you have initiated treatment, continue to keep the lesions clean, dry, and exposed. While ringworm can, for the most part, eventually clear on its own this is not the course of action you wish to take. Ringworm is highly contagious to other horses. Electing not to treat it can lead to its spread.
Disinfect any and all tack and grooming equipment used on your horse with ringworm and disinfect yourself prior to handling any other horses. It is also recommended to disinfect your horse’s living quarters such as his stall. If the infected area resides in a place where it is likely to come in contact with your horse’s tack, avoid riding him until it clears so as not to further irritate the area. As always, contact your horse’s veterinarian if the infected area fails to respond to treatment.