By Holly Amann, Foster Program Manager
Ringworm. It’s an intimidating word that conjures up images of bald, patchy fur, scaly skin, and itchy red circles. But the truth is, ringworm isn’t really all that scary — and it isn’t even actually a worm at all! It’s simply a skin infection caused by a fungus, and is very similar to athlete’s foot in humans. A little anti-fungal cream is usually all it takes to treat on a human.
The scariest thing about ringworm is that in shelters across the country, a ringworm lesion can mean death to the animals that show signs of this easily treated infection.
Ringworm is most likely to affect immuno-compromised, such as animals who are stressed or have been abused or neglected, so it’s easy to see why cases of ringworm are common in shelters. In many animal shelters, a lack of space and resources makes it nearly impossible to care for an animal undergoing a six week treatment for a contagious skin infection. Here at Brother Wolf, we are committed to saving those animals — but we need the support of foster homes and volunteers.
Foster homes are crucial to the care of animals with skin conditions like ringworm. In an environment like the Adoption Center, where volunteers and staff handle dozens of animals, toys, leashes, food bowls, and blankets daily, it is much easier for ringworm to spread.
Furthermore, once an animal is diagnosed with ringworm, they have fewer options for enrichment, such as participating in play groups with other dogs. Instead, they are kept quarantined from the public. While quarantine is necessary for containing the infection, it unfortunately greatly decreases an animal’s chances of getting adopted while undergoing treatment.
In a foster home, we have a better chance of containing the spread of the infection, the animal can be marketed online for adoption by the foster parent, and the animal is much happier in a quiet home than they are in the chaos of the Adoption Center.
There is one more reason why foster homes are so important in these cases. Often, when we have animals with ringworm, they are puppies or kittens who were already too young to stay at the Adoption Center. Socialization with humans and each other is so important at this young age, and that is difficult to accomplish while in quarantine at the Adoption Center. In a foster home, however, ringworm kittens and puppies can still get plenty of safe playtime with proper precautions.
Volunteers who are interested in fostering cats or dogs with ringworm will need a room that can be easily cleaned, and where the foster animal can be kept isolated from resident pets. A spare bathroom can work perfectly! Don’t share food bowls, toys, blankets, or other items with any other pets. Then, wear gloves, wash your hands thoroughly up to your elbows, and wear a dedicated over-shirt for handling, and you’re done! These steps take five extra minutes, and you are helping save the lives of animals who would euthanized in so many other places.