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Signs, symptoms and treatments of ringworm in horses


Ringworm is a frustrating condition that can affect any horse. It can potentially progress into illnesses much worse, so it’s important every horse owner knows how to identify and solve the problem.

This guide aims to tell you a little more about what it is and highlighting the symptoms that indicate a case of ringworm, alongside some suggestions and tips as to how to take preventative steps.


What is Ringworm?

Can sometimes be referred to as Dermatophytosis and is simply described as a fungal type infection on the skin of a human or other animal. Contradicting to its name, the infection has nothing to do with worms or parasites. It is a very broad condition that can be contracted by a large number of different fungi. It is easily recognisable by a distinct circular rash that may be found in multiple places on the skin. It will often be irritable and visibly red.


Diagnosis and Symptoms of Ringworm


Diagnosis and Symptoms of Ringworm

The symptoms are fairly easy to spot initially but confirmation should always be sought for from veterinary professionals. The most obvious indication of any presence is by looking at your horse's coat. Changes in the quality, consistency or thickness of their coat are often nothing to worry about and certainly expected from time to time. But the effect that ringworm has is more substantial and you are likely to see a considerable lack of growth in places,  as well as some discolouring. It is easy to spot this early on and is also vital that you do so, as the fungus can spread extremely quickly and results in harmful responses. However, if your horse possesses this symptom it does not always suggest ringworm. Rain scald is a less serious condition that will cause a horse’s coat to look similar to a bout of ringworm. Seeking expert advice is advised here as treatments for the two infections are quite differently.


Skin irritation is another clear symptom as the horse will find it nearly impossible to stop itching at the infected area. It can be a very irritable condition and will develop in a specific area at first, so if you find your horse continually itching the same area, this could point to ringworm. This condition will continue to cause discomfort for your horse and can spread to other horses across a period of up to 15 weeks. In terms of confident diagnosis, you can get a vet to sample some skin swabs in order to examine them for fungal infection. A specialist is easily able to diagnose this condition and it won’t prove to be too destructive as long as it is managed, controlled and then prevented for the future.

Can a Horse get Ringworm Twice?

It’s always possible that your horse can contract ringworm a second time; it is easily spread and can grow in tough conditions. Once you have exterminated it once, it is vital that your prevention methods are secure, as it may be that you are in an area that is especially prone to infection.


Can You Catch Ringworm From Your Horse?

Although it is very unlikely it is definitely possible that you could catch the infection from your horse. This condition is spread purely through contact with the infected site therefore any time you are near the ringworm lesions, you are at a risk of contamination. If you’re getting your horse checked out then it is always worth running tests on you too just to be sure.


Ringworm Treatment and Prevention


Ringworm Treatment and Prevention

If it’s been suggested that your horse has ringworm by a specialist or vet, or even if you self diagnose in order to save fees, you can follow this brief care guide to treat and prevent the condition. Following these steps could clear any infection up within two short weeks:


  • Remove hair that promotes fungal growth - If there is a spread of fungus present, it will target rich areas of hair to consume. This is because it tries to feed on protein rich substances such as keratin that construct your hair. If you can shave the infected areas you may be able to stunt the growth of fungus as it struggles to find a food source.

  • Use an antifungal scrub - once you have shaved, wet the area slightly and try to find a soap based antiseptic to massage into the area. Once you have created a foam you should leave it to work for around ten minutes before washing away. Betadine is a recommended solution here.

  • Protect the area with a dressing - This can be in multiple forms but needs to be applied daily until you see progressive results. This will not only kill the old ringworm but will massively help to prevent any new conditions from developing.

  • Expose the infection to air - By drying out warming the area you will kill the bacteria. It accelerates in damp conditions where there is little light, so sun and open air is key to stunting growth.

  • Make sure your property is free from ringworm - If your barn or stables etc. isn’t clean or disinfected, there is a chance that the ringworm may return. Decontaminate your whole workplace to eliminate lingering bacteria. This will properly prevent your horse from catching it a second time.


That’s more or less all you need to know about ringworm, how to identify it and what to do to prevent it spreading. For more information about general care, check out our Ultimate Horse Care Guide.