Many think that if a cat doesn’t go outside it won’t get ringworm, however, any cat can get ringworm. The reality is that kittens (those under a year of age) and elderly (geriatric) cats are the most susceptible to ringworm followed quickly by long haired pets and immunologically compromised pets. The condition can spread like wild fire so it is important to keep it in check. This is why, shelters and other crowded conditions tend to compound the situation. Ringworm likes warm and humid environments so it’s important to take preventative measures to prevent infestations.
What is Ringworm?
The word ringworm (Dermatophytosis) conjures up a picture of a round shaped worm, in fact, ringworm isn’t a worm at all but rather, a fungi infestation that generally attacks skin, hair and nails presenting itself in a roundish shape with a reddened center area.
The Different Types of ringworm
Although there are actually three different kinds of ringworm in cats, the most common one presenting itself in cats is called Dermatophyte Microsporum canis (M canis).
What Are The Symptoms of Ringworm?
Typical symptoms of ringworm in cats are skin lesions which appear on their head, ears or forelimbs. If left unchecked, feline ringworm can cause bald and flaky patches of skin with a red center. Milder cases may only have a local red area or even dandruff. Infections left unchecked can in time spread over kitty’s entire body. Note that many pets may carry ringworm without showing any symptoms at all.
How does a Cat Get Ringworm?
Some of the most common ways your cat can contract Ringworm are:
- Transmitted through contact with an animal that already has the condition.
- If purchasing used pet bedding always make sure to launder said bedding as the fungi spores can live on the bedding for over a year.
- Used pet dishes and other pet toys can also harbor the hardy fungi spores.
- Through contact with affected Humans.
What Treatments are Available for Feline Ringworm?
If the owner doesn’t mind the smell of rotten eggs, a shampoo may be purchased for ringworm in cats. Dips or shampoos should be done twice weekly either at home or at the veterinarian’s office. It’s important to note however, that the shampoo has lime sulfur in it and will stain jewelry, clothing and may turn kitty’s hair a yellow tone. If this treatment is done for feline ringworm make sure to get exact instructions from the veterinarian for mixing it up prior to application. Also it’s important to be aware that the shampoo may need to be left on your pet for a length of time for it to be effective.
Oral antifungal agents
Generally Shampoo treatment will cure most of outbreaks, however and oral anitfungal agent may be recommended if topical therapy does not work after 4+ weeks of treatment. Itraconazole or Terbafine are preferred agents.
Ringworm in cats can often be treated with Griseofulvin. This anti fungal medication isn’t without side effects however, so discussing all of the possible reactions and side effects should be done prior to administering the medication. The purpose of this medication is to inhibit the fungi’s ability to reproduce.
While there is a vaccination available for ringworm, it is only effective against one strain of feline ringworm so it may not work for the type of ringworm your kitty has. A quick check with your local veterinarian may readily answer this option of treatment.
Can feline ringworm spread to other cats and owners? The answer is a resounding yes. Every care should be taken to treat ringworm in cats as soon as possible. Make sure to use infection prevention techniques and wash all of your precious pets bedding, food dishes, toys (remember, the fungi can linger on toys and bedding for over a year so if the toy can’t be washed, it must be tossed) and other surfaces kitty lounges upon.
Using a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water will kill over 80 percent of the ringworm spores. Carpets and furniture should also be steam cleaned whenever possible to prevent further infestation. This solution can also treat bedding, baskets and other surfaces kitty plays on.
Remember if your pet is infected you should separate kitty from other pets by confining him or her to his very own room/space until the medication takes effect. When kitty is able to rejoin the family remember to disinfect the room he or she was confined to so that no one else is infected.
Always check with a veterinarian before diagnosing any skin condition on your pet.
Ringworm in Cats and Dogs with Dr. Andrew Jones DVM
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