Ringworm: The Naked Truth & What to Do

Many years ago, I had my first run-in with ringworm when my German shepherd (age 12 at the time) developed ball patches. A dozen years later, my second personal experience happened when I adopted a stray kitten I named Seren. She had couple of crusty bald spots on her forehead. That’s actually pretty typical. Ringworm most commonly affects elderly or young pets.

Siamese kitten

Seren-kitty at about 5 months old showing off her nekid tummy after spay surgery. We’d had her about 6 weeks, and the bald spots on her head had already resolved.

Ringworm is not a worm, it is a fungal infection of growing hair, dry skin, and sometimes the nails. There are many types, but about 95 percent of feline ringworm cases are caused by Microsporum canis. The condition also affects dogs and people.

CAT FACTS, THE SERIES

You’ll find more detailed information about feline obesity in Cat Facts, The Series 18 (R): The Pet Parent’s A-to-Z Home Care Encyclopedia which includes these topics:

Rabies, Reading Food Labels, Reproduction, Respiration, Respiratory Distress, Restraint, Ringworm, and Roundworms.

I’ve broken the massive book into discounted catnip-size alpha-chapter sections. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every other week. Of course, you can still get the entire CAT FACTS book either in Kindle or 540+ pages of print.

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

ringworm

Kittens and elderly pets are most susceptible to ringworm.

WHAT IS RINGWORM?

The name comes from the ring-like lesions typically seen in human cases. Ringworm is a kind of biological contact dermatitis in which skin inflammation is caused by a substance produced by the fungus. The inflammation makes the skin inhospitable for the fungus, so it moves on to greener pastures. In people, the fungus grows outward away from the initial central inflammation in ever-widening rings, leaving the center to heal.

In cats, sores also grow outward from the infection, but rarely produce the ring pattern found in people. Ringworm in cats can look like a variety of other feline skin diseases, but hair loss is the most usual sign. Bald patches may develop in only one area, several spots, or cover the entire body. Ringworm is the most common cause of hair loss in kittens.

The fungus, called a dermatophyte, lives only on hairs that are actively growing. Infected hairs eventually break off rather than fall out, leaving a stubby appearance to the coat. Mild to severe scaling or crusty sores typically develop with varying degrees of itchiness.

HOW DO PETS GET RINGWORM?

Cats and dogs are usually infected by coming in contact with infected hair, but ringworm can also be spread by contact with contaminated grooming equipment or from the environment. Contaminated hairs that are shed into the environment can remain infective for months, and provide a reservoir for reinfection of recovering cats.

All cats can get ringworm, and the length of haircoat has nothing to do with the risk. Both longhaired and shorthaired cats are equally affected. However, the most common victims are immune-compromised, young, and debilitated pets. Puppies and kittens are affected most frequently. Some cats carry the organism without showing signs themselves, and spread ringworm to other cats and pets. If one pet in the household is diagnosed, all should be treated whether they are showing signs or not.

DIAGNOSING RINGWORM

Ringworm in cats is diagnosed by identifying the fungus. The veterinarian may use a Wood’s Lamp to screen suspect cases; about half of M. canis cases will “glow” when exposed to its ultraviolet light. More cases are identified using a culture test which grows the ringworm fungus. A sample of debris brushed from the cat’s skin and fur is placed in a special medium designed to grow certain ringworm species. It may take up to three weeks before the test indicates a positive result.

RINGWORM TREATMENT

During treatment, infective animals should be quarantined from those not showing symptoms. Otherwise healthy cats tend to self-cure in nine months to a year, but during that time, can continually expose other animals (and people) to the fungus. People who are immune compromised, very young or very old are at highest risk.

Shaving ringworm-infected cats to aid treatment used to be routinely recommended but today is based more on the individual situation. Shorthair cats with fewer than five areas of infection may be effectively treated without a full body clipping.

Topical preparations of miconazole are helpful, but medicating the lesion before diagnosis may interfere with proper diagnosis. Miconazole alone or in combination with chlorhexidine is effective. Cats typically are bathed twice weekly, ensuring the product remains at least ten minutes on the cat’s fur. Treat only after your veterinarian diagnoses the condition, and follow his or her recommendation.

Drugs that have been shown to be effective include griseofulvin, terbinafine, ketaconazole, and itraconazole. After ingestion, the drug is incorporated into the growing hair where it slows the growth of the fungus. Pills are usually given once daily for four to eight weeks, and should be continued two weeks beyond the time symptoms have disappeared. A vaccine is also available that may reduce the symptoms of the disease, when used in combination with other therapies.

DEALING WITH RINGWORM AT HOME

Ringworm fungus can live in the environment for well over a year, where it can continuously reinfect cats. For that reason, this infected environment must also be treated; however, fungal spores are difficult to eliminate. Studies indicate that common disinfectants like chlorhexidine and water are not effective. Concentrated bleach or one percent formalin (a formaldehyde solution) have been shown to be effective, but neither are very practical in a home environment.

Daily cleaning of all surfaces using a diluted bleach solution (one part bleach to ten parts water), along with thorough vacuuming is the most effective and practical environmental treatment for most cat owners. Dispose of the vacuum bag by sealing in a plastic garbage sack and removing it from the house.

Has your cat (or dog) ever had ringworm? How did you handle it? Do tell! Now, for catteries and shelters, it can be even more of a challenge–any tips for those folks?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, affiliate links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I earn a small amount with each purchase from the blog. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Dog Ticks & Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

I’ve written about dog ticks and tick diseases before, including ehrlichiosis. Another devastating condition transmitted by ticks is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

rocky mountain spotted fever transmitted by ticks

Ticks attach themselves and may be hidden by fur.

I’m sharing this entry about ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER, an excerpt from Dog Facts, The Series 18 (Chapter R) This chapter covers a lot of ground, and here’s the topic list:

Rabies, Reading Food Labels, Reproduction, Respiration, Respiratory Distress, Restraint, Ringworm, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Rolling, and Roundworms.

I’ve broken the massive book into discounted treat-size alpha-chapter sections. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every other week. Of course, you can still get the entire book either in Kindle or 630+ pages of print.

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

WHAT IS ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER?

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a rickettsial disease caused by the organism Rickettsia rickettsii. Rickettsiae are tiny bacteria-sized parasites that live inside cells, and most spend a portion of their life cycle in an insect vector which then transmits them to an animal host, or reservoir. People and dogs are not the natural host for most of these agents, but can become ill when infected.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be transmitted by several different kinds of ticks, particularly the wood tick and the American dog tick. The illness affects both people and dogs.

A young Magic loved wandering the fields…and easily picked up ticks.

HOW DO DOGS GET

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER

The disease is seasonal, with most cases occurring from spring to early fall. It has been reported in nearly every state, but is most prevalent in the central states from Colorado west to the coast. Most infected dogs may not show any signs at all, but others can suffer severe illness and rapid death. For unknown reasons, Siberian Huskies appear to be most severely affected.

The agent is transmitted to the dog from the bite of an infected tick, and the rickettsiae travel from the tissues to the lymphatic system. They proliferate in the cells found in the walls of small blood vessels throughout the body. This prompts an inflammatory response that results in blood clotting and bleeding disorders, and organ damage.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER?

Signs begin with vague illness and continue to get worse. Watch for :

    • fever of up to 105 degrees
    • loss of appetite
    • signs of arthritis
    • coughing or labored breathing
    • abdominal pain
    • vomiting and diarrhea
    • swelling of the face or extremities
    • thick mucoid discharge from the eyes and nose.

Neurologic signs are also common, and may include altered mental states, poor balance, and a rigid neck. Many of these acute signs are similar to canine distemper.

A week or two following initial signs, the dog develops bleeding disorders similar to ehrlichiosis. Nosebleeds, bleeding beneath the skin, or in the urine or feces may result in shock and multiple organ failure. Loss of blood circulation may lead to gangrene and death of affected tissue. Ultimately, kidney failure causes death.

HOW IS ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER DIAGNOSED & TREATED?

Diagnosis is sometimes difficult to make, but Rocky Mountain spotted fever should be suspected when these signs appear in a tick-infested dog during spring to fall. The diagnosis is best confirmed with tests, which are available in veterinary laboratories or schools.

When the disease is suspected, dogs should be treated immediately with tetracycline even before blood tests confirm the diagnosis. Dogs suffering from acute disease will respond with a reversal of symptoms within only a day or two of antibiotic therapy, which should be continued for two to three weeks. They may also require other supportive therapy, such as fluid replacement to combat shock and clotting disorders. Once they recover from infection, dogs appear to become resistant to reinfection.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MY DOG?

To prevent the disease, practice tick control with appropriate insecticides. In most instances, the tick vector must be attached and feeding for 12 to 48 hours before a rickettsial agent can be transmitted. Therefore, prompt removal of any ticks found on your dog will virtually eliminate chance of the disease.

However, the crushed tick that contaminates your skin may result in infection, so wear gloves and/or use tweezers to remove ticks from your pet, to protect yourself from exposure. Human signs of the disease include flu-like symptoms, and a rash on the hands, wrists, ankles and feet. See your doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve been exposed, because the disease causes death in 15 to 20 percent of untreated human cases.

Find out more details about digging and other “R” topics in  Dog Facts, The Series 18 (Chapter R).

Does your dog get ticks? Are you using tick treatment to protect him? Has your dog ever suffered from a tick-borne disease–or have YOU? Someone I know currently is going through long-term debilitating treatment to get rid of a tick-borne illness.

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, affiliate links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I earn a small amount with each purchase from the blog. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Magical Milestones & When Normal Hurts

SAVORING EACH MAGICAL DAY

My canine best friend, my buddy, my heart–Magical-Dawg–has been declining in recent weeks. No surprise there, since he will celebrate his 11th birthday in July. Because I work at home, it is my joy to spend nearly 24 hours a day with my baby-dawg, and his furry “siblings.” I get to make pets the focus of my life’s work.

That’s a blessing, but also a curse. After working as a vet tech and a certified animal behavior consultant, and having picked the brains of the most savvy veterinarian experts in the world, I know what the future holds for Magic.

No, I’m not a veterinarian, and I don’t have a crystal ball. But with each canine gray hair earned, and every missed doggy step-and-stumble, I see.

I worry.

And I mourn what will be.

He’s a senior German Shepherd. So what’s happening to him could be…this.

Or it might be …the other thing.

But please doG, don’t let it be…that.

MAGIC’S DECLINE…IS IT NORMAL?

Magic’s athletic prowess has amazed me from the beginning. He tackles life (and toys!) head on, and used to bang himself up by tearing dew claws or slicing paws during play. Our first dog (the one who launched my pet-writing life) didn’t know how to play, suffered horrendous allergies, and had hip dysplasia. So to have a robust, play-tastic over-the-top healthy German Shepherd has worn us out while offering plenty of laughs along the way.

For instance, balls and toys and especially Frisbees offer nonstop fetching delight. He’s been known to stack and retrieve as many as he can carry (10+ I think!). Here’s a video example from 2010:

MY SENSITVE BOY

GSDs are known for their sensitivity. Magic tunes in on his family’s stress. I know I need a vacation from “life” when my baby-dawg insists on more petting/play time, and interrupts me until I pay attention. When I had to travel quite a bit, Magic began stress-licking his paws and developed acral lick granuloma sores. We’ve fought them ever since. You can read more about them (with an update) here.

The past couple of years have been incredibly stressful. I’ve had some work challenges, as has my husband. That’s one reason that I’m making several changes this year in my professional life–more about that in a future post–and Magic and the other fur-kids really helped us through.

Now it’s our turn to help Magic.

Our first dog lived to be 13 years 4 months, and passed away on Halloween night–he waited until my husband got home, and we were all together. Thirteen years were not enough.

Magic still has time to share with us. For I wish it to be so… I have to hang on to that. So today, we went to the veterinarian for Magic’s annual check up. There’s a special kind of hell when the vet listens to your concerns and says,

“We’re going to hope it’s just arthritis.”

Magic waits for his fav vet-buddy to come pet him.

WHEN “NORMAL” HURTS

Dogs can’t tell us when they’re in pain, or how much discomfort they feel. Oh, they can yelp when hurt, or snarl and warn away your touch with a growl. Many pets (cats especially) are stoic and do their best to hide discomfort. I think Magic may have hidden his pain for a long time, perhaps from stubbornness and determination to keep on keepin’ on. Or perhaps, living so closely with him, we too easily overlooked the small signals until only the obvious problems shouted loud enough for us to notice.

Magic loves car rides. He thinks it’s his car, and gets treats at Starbucks (a “puppy-whip” cream cup) and crunchies at the bank drive through. He used to bully his way into the front seat to drive, before we installed the barrier bars. But these days, he needs a running start to vault into the back seat. Could it be…arthritis? That’s a normal part of aging, right?

Frisbee-Fetch no longer goes on forever, and is limited to three or four tosses kept low to the ground so he’s not tempted to leap since I’m sure he does have arthritis. Because he’ll still try–and pay for the failure with a painful cry and hurt feelings. Maybe that’s why Magic no longer remembers the bring command. He simply stands over the Frisbees and wags, waiting for us to come to him, rather than prance and dance them back to us for another throw.

Magic has eaten a special food that also has made a marked change in his brain acuity. I wrote about that here. But now he forgets (or ignores) requests/commands he’s known forever. Even the treat-word doesn’t get the same response. And this past weekend, he began to howl, for no apparent reason. He’s suffered an appetite loss the past several days, and has been incredibly restless at night. He doesn’t want to play with his best friend Karma-Kat. Could it be…aging brain changes or *shudder* canine cognitive issues?

One of my Mom’s shelties had such severe hip dysplasia by five months of age that he “bunny hopped” when he ran. My first shepherd had hip dysplasia, too, and never jumped. Magic jumped so high in his youth, he’d nearly levitate. But last week, Magical-Dawg adopted the bunny-hop gait when running. More alarming, though, he’s also noticeably weak on his left rear flank, and can no longer “pose” to leg-lift. That leg and foot toes inward when he walks, and he frequently loses his balance. Could it be . . . dysplasia? Or something worse?

MAGIC’S CHECK UP

Last year, Magic got a senior blood panel screening to establish a baseline, so we repeated that. He also received a heartworm check, fecal exam, and vaccines for lepto, distemper and kennel cough (the others he received last year). I waited, trying my best to be hopeful, while the tests were run and Magic was examined for neurological signs. *gulp*

You see, old German Shepherds can suffer from a progressive disease called degenerative myelopathy (DM), for which there is no treatment. It’s thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the spinal cord, resulting in progressive paralysis. DM is not painful, but affected dogs eventually stop walking as the paralysis ascends from their flanks upward.

There is a holistic modality developed by Dr. Roger Clemmons, a neurosurgeon at the University of Florida, that seems to help some dogs. A combination of herbs, amino acids and antioxidants appear to help reduce the inflammation and protect the nerves to help slow the progress of the disease. You can ask your veterinarian about the protocol, and share this information. Most dogs succumb within a year of diagnosis, however.

Did I mention I’ve not slept well lately? I held my breath when Dr. Clay came back into the room.

In the drive-thru at Starbucks to celebrate the good news exam!

WHEN THE VETERINARIAN SMILES…

Good news! Positioning Magic’s rear paws toe-under prompted him to immediately correct. The veterinarian said most dogs with DM don’t correct. In fact, the claws on the rear feet of DM-afflicted dogs often become rounded with wear from dragging. Magic’s claws had no tell-tale rounding.

Magic’s blood panel came back great, too. All values were pronounced not just good, but VERY good. That means he’s a good candidate for a canine arthritis drug, Rimadyl.

I’m breathing again.

And I didn’t cry (not very much anyway). Magic was given a prescription of Carprofen, the generic form of Rimadyl, to use as needed, beginning with twice daily. I was told not to get my hopes up (TOO LATE!) but that the meds can make a dramatic difference.

After all, pain muddles brain acuity–how well do you think when you hurt? And how do you play when you hurt? And how do you eat when you hurt? I bet you’d howl if you hurt.

But through the hurt, you still love. Magic always loves.

The meds WILL make a dramatic difference. For I wish it to be so.

My canine best friend, my buddy, my furry muse–Magical-Dawg–hasn’t finished with us yet. He still has work to do, races to win, more thrillers to inspire with his antics, games of kitty-tag to play with Karma. And keeping me sane.

No time for mourning. We’ve got Frisbees to chase!
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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE

Covering Thrillers & Hide And Seek Give-Away + 50 Books

Many of my Facebook peeps have already seen this, and you may also have noticed a few changes on the fiction book slideshow. I’ve updated the covers of my thrillers, YEE-HAW! And today, I’m announcing a contemporary thriller book giveaway.

Amy Shojai thrillers

WHY CHANGE BOOK COVERS?

Why, you ask? Well, the other bit of news is that the books have been released under my own FURRY MUSE PUBLICATIONS imprint. Yes, I have my own publishing company, woot! And while I loved the previous covers, they didn’t “say enough” about the human-dog connection portrayed in these stories. I hope that the new versions help clarify for potential readers.

I’ll soon share more about how FURRY MUSE PUBLICATIONS came about. I’m making some major changes in 2017–it’s been a rough couple of years–and time to REINVENT AMY once again.

CONTEST GIVE AWAY!

In celebration of the new covers, I’m joining a celebration of book-give-away-icity. (Hey, I’m a writer, so I get to make up words!). There are more than 50 thriller authors in this gala, including Brad Parks, Catherine Coulter, J.T. Ellison and more (SQUEEE! fan-girl moment…).

The contest runs today (Feb. 20) for a week (Feb. 27). If you haven’t yet “adopted” one of my thrillers, now’s your chance–plus the possibility of winning a Kindle Fire.

Oh, and for those who have read this far, stay tuned for some info later today about my Magical-Dawg…the inspiration for my Shadow-pup character in my series. Magic will soon be 11 year’s young, and he’s got a vet appointment this morning. Please send some paws-itive energy for a good check-up.

And now….click the picture, below, to enter. Ready, set….CLICK!

Hide & Seek Give-Away

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE