Can I Give My Horses Ringworm?

Sometimes people can spread diseases to their horses. Ringworm, a highly contagious fungal infection, is one example.

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Can I Give My Horses Ringworm?
Ringworm is zoonotic, meaning you could spread it to your horse, and vice versa. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Marianne Sloet
Q. I recently contracted ringworm after playing with a friend’s new kitten. I have red, itchy rashes on my face, as well as my body, and my doctor has confirmed the diagnosis. I know horses and dogs can also carry ringworm. Is it possible for me to pass it to my own animals? If so, is it likely, and how can I avoid spreading it to my horses and pets? Should I avoid grooming my horses and handling their blankets?​

A. Ringworm infections aren’t actually caused by worms, despite the misleading name, but by various species of fungus. Horses, humans, dogs, and cats can all contract ringworm infections. In humans, specific types of ringworm fungi also cause the conditions commonly known as jock itch and athlete’s foot. Ringworm is zoonotic, meaning humans can contract it from contact with animals and vice versa. They can also contract it from the soil—because infectious spores can exist there, as well—and fomites (objects, such as clothing, that can transmit the infection).

There are several species of ringworm fungi. Dog and cat ringworm infections are usually due to Microsporum gypseum, Microsporum canis, or Trichophyton species. Human ringworm infections are usually due to Trichophyton, Microsporum, or Epidermophyton species. Horse ringworm is typically caused by Trichophyton, Microsporum gypseum, or Microsporum equinum.

As you can see, there is some overlap in ringworm species among animal species, so it’s possible for ringworm infections to be transmitted from cat to human to horse, for example

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Written by:

Wendy Krebs, DVM, is a partner at Bend Equine Medical Center in Bend, Oregon. She grew up in western Oregon where she participated first in 4-H and later in eventing. She graduated from Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002 and performed a yearlong equine internship, followed by a four-year American College of Veterinary Surgeons Equine Surgery residency. Her practice interests include surgery and performance horse care, as well as comprehensive preventive care. She lives on a small working ranch in Tumalo with her husband, two young children, and a bevy of animals, including nine horses. She enjoys riding her Oldenburg mare, Aria, emergency schedule permitting.

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