How Long Does Ringworm Last In A Cow?

Ringworm last up to 9 months in a cow. Ringworm has nothing to do with worms; it is a contagious fungal infection causing itchy and scaly skin. It gets its name from the characteristic ring shape of the rash that forms on the infected skin.

The scientific terms for ringworm are dermatophytosis or tinea. Dermatophytes are fungal organisms. These organisms need keratin to thrive and cause topical infection in the skin, nails, and hair.

What is Ringworm in Cattle?

Ringworm is an infectious and contagious fungal skin infection that affects cattle and humans alike. The spore-forming fungus, Trichophyton verrucosum, is its most frequent cause.

It is a potential zoonosis (an infectious disease that has passed from animals to human beings) which are viral, parasitic, or bacterial. They may involve unconventional agents, and humans can transmit to other humans. Other sources of transmission are water, food, and the environment.

Although Trichophyton verrucosum causes most outbreaks, Trichophyton mentagrophytes can also be responsible but is less common. Dermatophytes can survive in enclosed spaces for months, and sheltered cattle often catch the disease through physical contact with contaminated feed barriers, troughs, or walls.

Poorly nourished calves and immune-suppressed cattle suffering from illnesses such as persistent bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) are more prone to infection.

What is Ringworm in Humans?

Causes of ringworm in humans are direct contact with an infected person or animal.

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Transmission is typically done through:

  • Shared objects like combs
  • Using public showers or locker rooms
  • Contact sports
  • Hugging cows regularly
  • Working in feed lots

There are different cases of ringworm in humans. These cases go by different names depending on which parts of your body it affects:

  • Jock itch (or tinea cruris) when it forms in the groin
  • Athlete’s foot (or tinea pedis) if it is present between the toes
  • Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis) when present on the skin of the head.

Tinea capitis is responsible for temporary hair loss. There are effective treatments to remove the fungus and prevent further spread to other parts of your body.

Prevention Techniques

A poorly kept and unsanitary cattle environment is a perfect breeding ground for infectious fungi. Regular cleaning and disinfection must be a normal part of your farmyard management procedures.

Tightly-packed animals on damp lots or in enclosed spaces are favorable conditions for ringworm to thrive. Preferably, use all available land to allow cattle to spread out with access to direct sunlight.

The Trichophyton verrucosum fungus produces spores that are transmitted by direct contact. Cattle tightly bunched around a trough will often touch heads, facilitating the spread of the infection, particularly in feed lots. This practice accounts for the regularity of ringworm lesions in the facial area.

Inanimate objects are also responsible for the spread of the disease. The fungus will live for several months in areas out of direct sunlight, so covered cattle holding areas are excellent environments for the spores to spread. Fence posts, gates, and feeding bins as areas suitable for transmitting infection.

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Ringworm Lifespan Within A Cow

Although ringworm usually clears up without any treatment, this process can take up to 9 months.

In less severe cases, a healthy cow’s natural immune system and exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays while on the pasture can often resolve the infection. However, it is best to treat the condition because unattended lesions can be persistent, and, despite eradicating the fungus, it can take several months for these lesions to heal and hair to grow back.

Causes and Symptoms of Ringworms

The infection most frequently spreads by direct contact with affected animals. Ringworm symptoms are grayish-white patches of skin with a dry, flaky surface. Circular papules form on these areas of skin, with the affected spots slightly elevated.

Lesion dimensions vary greatly, but they can be pretty sizeable. The rings extend up to 10 cm in diameter and may become confluent, joining and forming more extensive lesions.

Adult cattle tend to show ringworm mainly on their chest and legs, whereas it is more typically present on the back and around the ears and eyes of calves. However, there are instances of the disease covering the entire body, including the udders.

After-Effects of Ringworm

The spores are incredibly resilient and can survive for years in dry environments. Despite its livid appearance, ringworm does not usually cause permanent damage and thus has few long-term economic consequences. There are exceptions and it can delay growth rates or leave marks on hides that last the cow’s lifetime.

These two these circumstances can substantially discount the value of the cow come market time.

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Not having a hugely detrimental effect on a herd’s overall economic value shouldn’t detract from the fact that the presence of ringworm might well indicate the animals are not in the best of health.

Treatments Options Available

The Bovilis Ringvac vaccine will protect cattle against the disease and speed up recovery.

Typical doses2 doses
Time between doses2 weeks
Immunity begins3 weeks after dose 2

The most typical way to treat ringworm is to apply a topical fungicidal wash directly onto the affected region. This wash should contain something similar to the active ingredient enilconazole.

The crusts that develop on the lesion are too tough for the medication to penetrate, and you must use a wire brush or scraper to remove them. Once separated from the cow’s skin, their incineration should follow so as not to risk further contamination.

After removing the crusts, treat the lesions twice, three to five days apart. These treatments are effective on the areas of application. However, keep a watchful eye on the afflicted cow as the disease will often spread to untreated areas.


Adam has always had a fascination with farmyard animals, no doubt sparked by the farm in Devon he used to visit every summer when he was a young pup. He became close friends with the farmer’s children, two of which were about his age, and they allowed him to help out with cattle milking, herding and tagging. Being a fondly magical experience, he recently jumped at the opportunity to help the team at Cow Care Taker.

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