Equine Ringworm

What is Ringworm?

Dermatophytosis, also known as ringworm, is one of the most common skin issues that affect horses.  Higher incidents are seen more frequently in hot, humid climates but they can also be seen in colder, dryer climates.  It can occur at any time of the year but more frequently seen in the warmer months.  What usually distinguishes it from other fungal infections is its unique appearance of circular lesions with a crusty layer of buildup and hair loss in the area. Ringworm is caused by a fungus which can be a bit confusing, as ringworm is not always ring-shaped and has nothing to do with worms. The two Trichophyton spp. and Microsporum spp species of fungi that cause the disease flourish in wet British winter weather.

The incubation period is long compared to other organisms; it can be months from when the spore is deposited on your horse’s skin before symptoms may appear. Your horse will not die from ringworm but this is a highly contagious fungal infection of the skin that can spread rapidly from horse to horse, or from horse to human. Ringworm is zoonotic, which means it can infect human and animals, therefore, you can contract it from your horse. When treating him and dealing with him in any manner, be sure to clean your personal protective equipment and employ appropriate hygiene habits.  

The infection spreads either by direct contact, or on tack, rugs, grooming kit or buckets. Also, the ringworm fungus will produce spores that can remain dormant on woodwork for more than a year, contaminating stables and fencing.

 

What are the signs and symptoms?

They grow across the surface of the skin and around the hairs, producing a variety of changes affecting the horse’s coat and skin. For ringworm to infect the skin, the skin has to be damaged or rubbed to allow the fungi to make it past the protective layer of skin.

The fungus weakens the base of the hair shafts causing the hairs to break off.  The fungi produce spores resistant to environmental conditions making them very difficult to get rid of.  They can remain in the area for months to years and cause re-infection of the same horse or others as well.  

Often all that is noticed in the early stages is tufts of hair that may appear raised up from the rest of the coat with a slight swelling underneath. Most lesions are circular, but they can be any shape. Usually, the tufts of affected hair fall out, leaving the skin underneath looking raw and sore. Classically, ringworm develops into grey, flaking areas with broken hairs, but the coat will gradually regrow over the following months.

If your horse has a skin rash, sore or bald area for which there is no other obvious explanation, you should have him checked and treated for ringworm to reduce the risk of the infection spreading further.

It can affect horses of any age but, is more commonly seen in young horses under the age of 5.  Older horses usually develop immunity to ringworm but, due to lowered immune system infection can still occur. Ringworm is not necessarily itchy or sore despite its scaly, thickened appearance.

As stated above the skin needs to be damaged or rubbed to allow the fungi to infect. Therefore, lesions are most commonly seen where the tack rubs and at the saddle and girth areas, but can also be on the face and other parts of the body.

Getting rid of ringworm can be a long process but it is necessary for your and your horse’s health.  The lesions may take a while to heal even after it is no longer considered contagious.  The skin has to clear and the hair has to regrow meaning it can take weeks to months, depending on the vitality of the horse and the spreading of the condition.  While it may not look pretty, just know your horse is on the mend and considered healthy.
  

Treatment Options of Ringworm in Horses

There are multiple options for treating ringworm in horses.  Following infection, lesions usually appear within 7 to 21 days depending largely on the immune status of the horse. If left, most cases will eventually clear up, but prompt treatment is recommended to avoid it spreading further.

To address the horse, there are a number of washes, shampoos and sprays that can be applied to the skin. Disposable gloves should be worn while treating the lesions and you should clean your hands with a suitable wash afterwards. Your vet may prescribe an antifungal powder to feed to your horse, but as there is minimal evidence that this in-feed medication is effective, it is no longer regularly prescribed. If used, care must be taken as it contains toxic chemicals which are dangerous for both pregnant mares and foal.

It is wise to isolate affected horses and ponies as much as possible to limit environmental contamination. Any stables involved should be cleaned thoroughly and bedding destroyed. You should disinfect the rugs, fences and anything else a horse with ringworm has contacted. For a disease that is non-critical, this may seem extreme and a lot of work,
but one intensive treatment blitz can reduce the spread among horses in the immediate area. Wooden stable walls are an ideal place to harbour ringworm spores. A variety of effective compounds are available for use on tack, rugs and grooming kit without causing damage. Options may include five to 10 per cent bleach for concrete.


Homeopathic Approach

It is important to understand that Ringworm infection or any other microbial infection only happen when the overall state of the immune system is weak and allows the infection to take place. Microbes pervade every aspect of human society and the natural world. A war with the power unseen is a lost battle, therefore the logical option is to address the terrain, the cause why the infection was allowed to happen in the first place and Homeopathy offers an excellent solution.

The natural remedies help providing relief from the acute symptoms of itching and burning of the lesions and also help eradicating the disease in its entirety by strengthening the immune system. The results are gained through the individual selection and prescription of Homeopathic remedies.

With these remedies, there is no chance of suppression of infection and it is addressed in a most gentle and efficient way.  These remedies which are made of natural substances, safe, with absolutely no side effects, not only help in providing relief from symptoms but also work to eradicate the infection from the body.

Currently we have 65 remedies clinically proven to address ringworm but he most commonly used are Sepia, Tellurium, Sulphur, Psorinum and Arsenic Album.

Sepia: Typically for Ringworm in Isolated Spots

Sepia is the top natural remedy for Ringworm infection appearing in isolated spots. Although the lesions can be noticed in any part of the body, the most common locations are on the bends of the knees and elbows. Sepia if indicated, will give wonderful results. The eruptions are accompanied by itching and scratching, though scratching does not provide any relief. Apart from these symptoms, increased sweating with or without a bad smell may be noticed in horses requiring Sepia

Tellurium: For Ringworm Infection with Lesions on Large part of Body

Tellurium is the best natural medicine when Ringworm eruptions cover a large part of the body. Here, the lesions join one another and eventually cover a large area of skin. The body is densely covered with intersecting ring lesions. To select this remedy, the eruptions may appear on the whole body, on the face, or on limbs. The eruptions are marked by excessive itching and stinging sensation. The itching remains present throughout day and night. Cold air seems to worsen the itching.

Sulphur: For Intense Itching and Burning

Sulphur is a very beneficial natural remedy for a large variety of skin conditions. The main complaint is intense itching and burning in eruptions. The horse can go crazy with scratching the lesions but it does not seem to provide any relief. The itching can be heightened at night in the warmth of the stable. Sulphur helps to soothe the itching and burning, followed by the disappearance of eruptions. It is a deep acting natural remedy that can help in root extraction of Ringworm lesions if used for some time. Sulphur should always be the first Homeopathic choice in those cases of Ringworm that have been suppressed with local medications (anti-fungal and
antibiotics) of varying kinds.

Psorinum: Homeopathic treatment for Ringworm on Head and Folds

Psorinum is an excellent skin remedy used for the treatment of Ringworm. Psorinum is another remedy used for Ringworm infection of scalp and bends of joints. The eruptions are excessively itching. Like Sulphur the itching can be aggravated by warmth while the horse is naturally chilly.
Hair loss is one of the key noticeable feature for using this remedy. In a few cases, the hair appears dry, rough and lustreless. Another key symptom is profuse sweating with bad odour throughout the body.

Arsenic Album:  For Ringworm Mainly Located in the Head

The head (consider crest, poll, forelock, forehead and cheeks) showing bald spots with intolerable itching. The areas are rough and dry. Along with itching, there is an intense burning sensation like Sulphur, but while Sulphur will be aggravated in warm weather, the Arsenicum type will be relieved in warm weather. The symptoms can also be markedly worse at night. With the local symptoms the horse will show marked anxiety and extreme restlessness as well as increased thirst.

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