The OSPCA has changed their plans for management of the ringworm outbreak that is ongoing in a Newmarket, Ontario shelter. Now, some (hopefully all) remaining animals will be fostered out to local veterinarians while the situation is being brought under control.
One question that has been asked widely in the press and by the public is why these animals haven’t simply been sent to foster homes. Particularly now, with all the attention, there would presumably be many people willing to take in these pets. However, putting animals infected or potentially infected with ringworm into foster homes is a controversial and potentially problematic situation, because ringworm can be spread easily to people and other animals in the household. Sending out an animal that is or may be shedding a zoonotic disease is a tricky situation, and one that can’t be taken lightly. Additionally, proper management of these animals can take significant time and effort.
A better approach is to send the animals to places where they can be properly, safely and humanely isolated and treated. Veterinary clinics are a logical option, and a request has been sent to clinics in the area to take animals for quarantine and treatment. The reason veterinary clinics are being solicited is that many clinics have the ability to properly house these animals in isolation units and have the expertise and commitment to properly treat them.
Nonetheless, this is no small favour to ask of these veterinary clinics. Just as taking an infected pet into a household carries some risk, taking these animals into a clinic is also associated with some risk of transmission to people and other animals. However, with proper facilities and protocols, and the donation of sufficient personnel hours to implement those protocols, the risks should be minimal. To facilitate this, we have developed an information sheet with infection control and treatment recommendations for veterinary clinics. For anyone else who is interested, the document can be found here and on the Worms & Germs Resources page under Information Sheets For Veterinarians.
Image: Ringworm lesions on the paws of a dog. Although this is how "classic" lesions tend to appear, clinical signs of ringworm in pets can be highly variable. (click image for source)