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Shelter vet Sandra Newbury helps Wisconsin shelter solve ringworm problem

February 10, 2011

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February 10, 2011

The worst had happened. When a Wisconsin animal shelter found an outbreak of ringworm in kittens, the infection kept growing until officials were forced to shut the shelter down. 

But shelter personnel did not give up. The shelter's veterinarian advisor contacted Sandra Newbury, national shelter medicine extension veterinarian of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, a unit of the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Newbury began working immediately with Karen Moriello, clinical professor of dermatology, University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

Newbury would work with the shelter to implement protocols to deal with the ringworm in the shelter environment.  Moriello would provide diagnostic testing to help guide treatment decisions.

“Ringworm can spread quickly in this environment,” explained Newbury, who also serves as an adjunct assistant professor of shelter animal medicine at the University of Wisconsin. “It can seem overwhelming, but if you use the system we have developed,
instilling a preventative approach, it is very manageable.

"Unfortunately, ringworm is very common and misunderstood," she adds. "Putting a treatment program into place can change the way a shelter manages ringworm."

The protocol used was based on experience that the veterinarians Drs. Newbury and Moriello had gained in working with another group, the Dane County
(WI) Humane Society. Because it was so successful, the protocol has become a national model for managing ringworm. A few particularly distinctive features are the facility's attention to detail at shelter intake, a separate area for infected animals and the training of volunteers to carry out the protocol.


While they knew exactly what to do, Newbury and Moriello faced a looming deadline. The holidays were approaching, a popular time for people to adopt animals. As long as the shelter remained closed, however, animals could not go to new homes—and new animals couldn't find refuge at the shelter.

Newbury recruited several Dane County Humane Society volunteers and traveled to Jefferson County to implement the ringworm protocol. They trained the manager at Jefferson County Shelter, Barb Rayno, how to perform a lime-sulfur dip. They also demonstrated new intake procedures and cleaning processes for cages. In the end, Jefferson County was set up with a proactive approach.

“The enthusiasm of volunteers at Dane County Humane Society helped make all of this knowledge possible.  They were willing to put in the time and learn new ways of doing things. Really they were willing to do whatever was needed to make it happen. This is true of volunteers in shelters in so many places. With the right training, they can move mountains.”

“It is all logical, and it works,” says Reyno. “Knock on wood--we haven’t seen ringworm since. I’m no longer afraid of ringworm. I know what to do, and I have the right tools.”


With her own program up and running again, Reyno has reached out to assist another humane society that had to close its doors, sharing the knowledge gained from the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program and the University of Wisconsin.

"Our goal in working with shelters is to give staff and volunteers the tools they need to provide the kind of care they and the animals dream about," Newbury says. "Once they have the information we hope they’ll pass it on. There is nothing quite as empowering as knowing you have the right tools for the job."

The Jefferson County shelter reopened in plenty of time for kittens to find homes for the holidays.

To learn how you can support the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, please contact the School of Veterinary Medicine Development Office, (530) 752-7024, or click on the “Give Now” button on the bottom of this page.