Looking for more information on how to treat ringworm in Cats?
Although the name may make you think otherwise, it isn’t caused by a worm at all—it is a parasitic fungus that can infect the skin, hair and nails, and gets its name from the patchy, circular areas of hair loss with central red rings that develop in the infected area.
Also known as dermatophytosis, ringworm is easily spread from pet to pet, and even to humans as well. It is caused by a microscopic group of organisms known as dermatophytes (which means “plants that live on the skin”).
Ringworm infects the dead, outer layers of the skin, claws, and hair. It is one of the most common skin diseases in cats and is highly contagious.
If a cat with ringworm is not properly treated, the lesions can spread over large areas of the animal’s body, causing hair loss and skin infections.
Ringworm is more commonly seen in regions with high humidity and temperatures.
Lesions typically appear on the head, ears, and lower part of the legs, however severe ringworm infections can cover the entire body. Any cat can develop ringworm, but kittens less than a year old and geriatric cats are most prone to infection, while longhaired cats and those who are immunocompromised are also more susceptible.
A cat can catch it directly through contact with an infected animal, or indirectly through contact with bedding, dishes and other materials that have been contaminated with the skin cells or hairs of infected animals.
Ringworm spores are notoriously hardy and can survive in the environment for more than a year!
Ringworm can spread quickly, which is why it is extremely important to isolate the infected pet and to wash all dishes and bedding thoroughly before exposing to other animals. When handling a ringworm infected pet, always make sure to wear disposable rubber gloves, and wash your hands. This is extremely important if there are young children in the home or if anyone in the home is immunosuppressed, as they are much more susceptible.
If you suspect your cat has caught it, you should see your veterinarian to have a Fungal Culture. If you are not able to see your veterinarian, you can use an ultra violet light at home to see if any lesions on your cats’ body fluoresce. Fluoresce means that when you shine the light over the areas, they will turn bright green. If they do, your cat most likely has ringworm.
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Please keep in mind that this method is only about 50-60% effective, meaning that if your cat does not fluoresce you could still have a cat with ringworm.
You could also have areas fluoresce when your cat does NOT have ringworm- cat dander will fluoresce simply because dander is white. Therefore it is highly recommended that you see a veterinarian for a definitive ringworm diagnosis.
Your cat will stay contagious for approx. 3 weeks – that’s if you attack the fungus. If you do nothing, recovery will take much longer.
Treatment depends on the severity of the infection. Your veterinarian may prescribe a shampoo or ointment that contains a special medication to kill the fungus. The most common product used it a shampoo called Lime Sulfur Dip, and/or an ointment called Miconazole.
This prescription may be a veterinary only product or it may be sold over the counter at your local drugstore. In some cases, oral medications are necessary. In order to ensure that you’ve completely killed off the fungal infection, treatment may have to be given for several months or more and fungal cultures rechecked occasionally. It’s also important to treat the cat’s environment as well to prevent the infection from recurring.
If you cat is positive for ringworm, than there are a few steps you should take to not only rid your cat of the infection, but to keep the infection from spreading and recurring.
Use Lime Sulfur Dip.
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Of course, prevention is better than cure. Make a solution of water and bleach (ten parts bleach to one part water) and clean your cat’s bedding. More info about that can be found here. Also note that some breeds are more likely to catch it – there’s no arguing with genetics!