Skin fungi in dogs and cats

Cologne. Just like humans, animals can also become ill with skin fungi that develop in the animal's skin and hair. A fungal skin infection, known as dermatophytosis, is one of the most common infectious skin diseases in dogs and cats.

How do dogs and cats become infected with skin fungi?
Skin fungi are transmitted in the form of tiny spores. If an animal is infected, these spores are easily spread throughout the entire area via the hair and can remain infectious for years. Dogs and cats become infected by coming into direct contact with an infected animal or with objects contaminated with fungal spores. These include, for example, blankets, baskets, collars, brushes or transport boxes, but also floors and pieces of furniture.

In principle, all dog and cat breeds can suffer from skin fungus. However, not every contact with the fungal spores necessarily leads to an infection. Very young, old or sick animals as well as animals with a weakened immune system are considered particularly at risk. An infestation with parasites, such as fleas, ticks or mites, is also considered a risk factor. In addition, poor housing conditions, incorrect feeding or stress can increase the likelihood of a fungal infection.

Typical signs of a fungal skin infection
A fungal infection is often difficult to detect. Complaints such as hair loss, shaggy fur, dandruff or crust formation as well as small papules and pustules can indicate a skin disease. The often round, hairless areas are particularly common around the face, ears and limbs. When a fungal infection occurs, dog owners sometimes notice a nodular inflammation on their animal's nose or paws, the so-called kerion.

If you suspect skin fungus, go to the vet!
Pet owners who suspect that their animal is suffering from a skin fungus should contact their veterinarian immediately, as the fungi are easily transmittable to other animals, as well as to people. The veterinarian will first check whether there is actually a fungal infection, including with a laboratory examination (pathogen cultivation, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or pathohistology). Once the final diagnosis is made, pet owners must consistently treat their pet with medications that kill the fungi for at least six to eight weeks. Both tablets and topical medications are used, which must be applied to the entire skin – including non-affected areas. After about four weeks, the veterinarian will arrange for another laboratory test, the results of which will be available about one week later in a positive case and about three to four weeks later. Only when they confirm that there are no more skin fungi is the treatment finished.

Just as important as medication is to thoroughly clean the animal's environment with appropriate disinfectants. This applies to all objects that have come into contact with the animal, such as brushes, collars, leashes and toys, but also baskets, blankets, lying surfaces, furniture, floors or the car.

This is how pet owners can prevent fungal skin infections
Although various vaccines against skin fungi are available in Germany, these do not fundamentally protect the animal from disease, but rather only make it less susceptible to the pathogens. The safest way to prevent a fungal infection is to avoid contact with sick animals and their surroundings. This is not always possible, especially with cats, as not all sick animals show noticeable symptoms and the fungal infection therefore often goes undetected. In principle, it is therefore advisable to treat the animal's skin and fur once externally with a suitable anti-fungal agent after a stay in an animal boarding house, in an animal shelter or after an animal exhibition. Pet owners should also disinfect all items that the animal has come into contact with during this time.

To protect themselves from infection, pet owners should wash their hands thoroughly after contact with their pet and not let it on the sofa or even in their bed.

Children and other people should always be kept away from a sick animal. Particular caution should be exercised in people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, the elderly, patients receiving chemotherapy or an organ transplant, and babies and young children.

Pet owners and veterinarians can find further information and tips on the subject of parasites online at www​.esc​cap​.de and www​.hund​-kat​ze​-wuer​mer​.de.