A. Our two East Bay SPCA shelters in Dublin and Oakland have many volunteers from all walks of life. Our minimum age for volunteering is 10, but children must be mature enough to follow instructions and rules carefully. Parents of volunteers 10-18 years old must attend orientation with their children. From ages 10-15 parents must also supervise their children when volunteering. Teenagers 16-18 years old can volunteer on their own provided their parents have attended orientation with them. Volunteering at an animal shelter is a great way for children to learn responsibility and compassion.
Q. We just adopted a kitten and the vet said it has ringworm. Does this mean my kids are going to get ringworm?
A. The short answer is "probably." Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a number of different funguses, called dermatophytes. It is not caused by a worm at all, but is named for the characteristic red itchy ring that it causes on human skin. Dermatophyte spores are found all over the environment, particularly in soil. They can infect the skin of animals and humans. Children, the elderly, and immune-compromised adults are more likely to develop ringworm lesions. Animals with ringworm have spores on their fur, which can infect humans when they come in contact with the animal or its environment - which includes its bedding, toys, food dishes and the like. The spores can persist in the environment for up to 18 months after the infection is gone. Even if the animal is being treated, it can continually reinfect itself, which makes getting rid of the infection difficult. Treatment usually consists of special baths, oral medication, or both.
To keep other pets and children from getting ringworm:
* Keep the kitten confined to one easily-cleaned room;
* Wash hands immediately after handling the kitten, its bedding, or supplies;
* Designate clothing to be worn in the contaminated area - a long-sleeved shirt or smock; and
* Clean the kitten's area daily. A solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water will kill ringworm spores on dishes and litterboxes.
If a person in your household does develop an itchy or red-ringed patch of skin, please see your family doctor and be sure to mention the ringworm exposure. The infection usually clears on its own but the doctor may prescribe topical medication. If a pet in your household has developed spots of hair loss, please take them to your own veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
--Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column runs every other week.