Ringworm in Cats
the name suggests otherwise, ringworm isn’t caused by a worm at all-but a
fungus that can infect the skin, hair and nails. Not uncommon in cats, this
highly contagious disease can lead to patchy, circular areas of hair loss with
central red rings. Also known as dermatophytosis, ringworm often spreads to
other pets in the household-and to humans, too.
What Are the General symptoms of Ringworm?
Classic symptoms of ringworm in cats include skin lesions that
typically appear on the head, ears and forelimbs. Ringworm can cause flaky bald
patches that sometimes look red in the center. In mild cases, there may be
localized areas of redness or simply dandruff, while more severe infections can
spread over a cat’s entire body. It’s also possible for a pet to carry ringworm
spores and not show any symptoms whatsoever.
How Do Cats Get Ringworm?
A cat can get ringworm 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!
Which Cats Are Prone to Ringworm Infection?
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. Ringworm can quickly
spread in shelters or other crowded environments; warm and humid conditions
tend to promote ringworm infections.
What Should I Do If I Think My Cat Has Ringworm?
Because infection can potentially spread over a cat’s body, it
is important that you see your vet for an accurate diagnosis if you suspect
your pet has ringworm. And because the infection can easily spread to you and
other animals in the household, it’s a smart idea to immediately quarantine
your cat until a veterinarian can confirm a diagnosis. You should also
thoroughly wash your hands after you touch your cat.
How Is Ringworm Diagnosed?
Since some cats show few or no symptoms, a diagnosis of
ringworm is rarely made just by looking at the skin. A veterinarian may use an
ultraviolet light to diagnose ringworm, or may examine a fungal culture taken
from a cat’s hair or skin cells. Skin biopsy and microscopic exam are sometimes
How Is Ringworm Treated?
Treatment of ringworm depends on the severity of the infection.
A veterinarian may prescribe a shampoo or ointment that contains a special
medication to kill the fungus. In some cases, oral medications are necessary.
In order to ensure that you’ve eradicated this resistant and hardy fungus,
treatment may have to be given for several months or more and fungal cultures
rechecked periodically. It’s also important to treat the cat’s environment,
too, to prevent infection from recurring.