Ringworm plagues all animals, including horses, exposed to outdoor conditions—particularly those living in a wet environment or hot climate that induces excessive sweating. Ringworm, also known as fungal dermatitis, is not a worm at all. It is actually a skin infection caused by fungus. Fungus is an organism that seeks to destroy living material. Fungus thrives on keratin, the protein that makes up horse hair and outer skin cells.
Ringworm is very distinct to identify and highly visible. The name itself indicates the circular, ring-like shape that appears on the skin. Ringworm may affect horses of all ages, though it is most common among juvenile and elderly equines due to their weaker immune systems. The lesion can appear anywhere, but is most common along the belly, the neck and the back. Ringworm results in exposed scabs and flaky skin, eventually leading to bald spots around the infected area.
The fungus is highly contagious. It may be transmitted from horse to horse through contaminated, unwashed saddle blankets, brushes or barn equipment. Ringworm is a type of fungus that can multiply rapidly and is easily transferred to horse owners and caretakers by skin-to-skin contact. Caution must be used to wear gloves when treating an affected horse and special attention paid to proper cleansing and hygiene.
Ringworm may escalate to itchy, red blisters that crust and ooze. If left unchecked, the areas may develop into a more serious bacterial infection. There is also a chance ringworm may impact the immune system.
To treat ringworm, horses must be kept in a dry environment. In her article for Horse and Rider magazine, Karen Hayes suggested removing the hair around the lesion and cleaning the affected skin area thoroughly. Aloe vera may be a useful supplement for ringworm, assisting the healing process and soothing the itching and redness. Aloe vera also contains acemannan, a natural immune booster, to help prevent further infections and complications. Aloe vera may be sprayed on the affected lesions or administered through food each day. Always consult with your veterinary professional before implementing a new health regiment.
Karen Hayes, April 2001 issue of Horse & Rider magazine
PubMed Health: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov