When revising the syllabus of my stable management course I asked my students to name a type of worm and when it should be targeted in the worming calendar.
One response was “ringworm”.
Now you could be forgiven in assuming that it is a worm, but ringworm is actually a fungal infection.
I assume it was named that before science got into fungi and bacteria and viruses, and it’s name was describing the symptoms. That is, a circle of tufted hair which then falls out to reveal a scabby area of skin which can become itchy.
Ringworm in horses is transmitted to other animals, including humans. This is why it’s important to isolate a horse with ringworm and have good hygiene routines in place to stop the spread of the disease. Ringworm spreads through grooming and by living in wood in the environment or spreading via tack and grooming brushes. Once ringworm has been found it can be very difficult to rid a yard from it as it lives in the wood and reinfects the horses.
Often it is new horses which spread ringworm onto a yard, and as the fungi can live on the skin for three weeks before symptoms occur it is very easy for infection to spread. Younger animals are more often affected, but once horses have been infected they gain an immunity which is quite long lasting. If ringworm is suspected then the vet will take a scraping to confirm the presence of the fungus.
To treat ringworm you should wash the horse with a mild detergent and rub off any scabs, before washing the horse thoroughly with anti fungal shampoo. This usually needs to be repeated, and a different anti fungal shampoo used in order to eradicate the infection from the horse’s body. If no more lesions appear then treatment has been successful. You should also disinfect the horse’s environment, tack, grooming kit, mucking out equipment, and rider’s/handler’s clothes to ensure the disease does not spread. The horse should also be isolated for 3 weeks to make sure he does not contaminate others.