What is Ringworm in Cats?
A common infection among cat populations around the world, ringworm a.k.a feline dermatophytosis is a serious but easily treatable skin disorder. Contrary to its name, it is not in any way related to worms.
According to research, it is a fungal infection caused by having contact with particular ‘dermatophytes’, a specific type of fungus with the capability to grow on our feline friend’s skin, feeding on the skin’s superficial layers for nutrition. The appearance of ringworm is often characterized by a red circle, hence the name.
Around 40 various dermatophyte species are known and each kind tends to infect a specific animal host. When it comes to cats, almost all cases are due to getting infected with Microsporum canis. Not only can they infect cats, however. They may also infect a lot of other species, including canines and us humans, too.
This article was reviewed by our expert veterinarian, Chris Vanderhoof (DMV).
Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats
How to tell if a cat has ringworm? The symptoms of cat ringworm may vary in appearance and severity. However, there are common signs that may indicate infection. These include:
- Round areas of hair loss;
- Scabby or scaly skin;
- Inflamed areas of skin;
- Areas of fuzzy hair;
- Changes in skin and hair color;
- Too much grooming;
- Excessive scratching;
- Infection in nail beds;
Do note however that many of these symptoms may also be present in other skin infections in cats such as allergic dermatitis, flea allergy dermatitis, alopecia, and cat acne. To know for sure whether or not your feline friend is infected with ringworm, do contact your vet for a proper diagnosis.
What Causes It?
Because ringworm is highly contagious, it’s easy for a cat to get infected when they come into contact with cats that are infected or if they become exposed to environments infected with ringworm. Not to mention, it may also spread from grooming tools, beddings, clippers, and the like.
Ringworm infection is especially prevalent in households with several cats because it spreads from infected skin follicles and fur, which are normally shed by cats. Meanwhile, the ones who are more commonly infected are young cats as well as cats with long hair.
Young cats (below 1-year-old) have vulnerable immune systems since they’re not yet fully developed, and thus are more prone to infection and sickness. On the other hand, long-haired cats are also prone to infection because of a higher probability of spores getting caught in their long hair.
When spores come into contact with your cat’s skin, this may cause an infection, especially when there is damage or abrasion in the skin.
Read more: Cat Skin & Dental Care Secrets
How to Treat Ringworm In Cats
There are certain clinical signs suggesting that your cat may have ringworm or dermatophytosis. To confirm, however, further tests are needed. Three of the most common ways to diagnose ringworm are:
- Examination under an ultraviolet lamp;
- Usage of a microscope to examine suspected hairs;
- A fungal culture medium.
If you suspect your cat of having a ringworm infection, it is essential to bring them to the vet. If they do have it, treatment is necessary to cure it and prevent it from spreading to other pets as well as humans. Ideally, treatment should start at the early stage of cat skin ringworm to prevent a wide spread of the infection.
Apart from treating the ringworm infection with antifungal medications, if your cat has predisposed skin conditions, these should also be treated so as not to disturb and prolong the healing process.
While the immune system of your cat has the capability to fight the infection eventually, treatment is the best alternative. This is in order to prevent the spread of the infection to others, whether animals or humans. Note that if you have other pets, they may also need treatments since the spread of infection in multi-pet households is highly likely.
Treatment options can either be systemic or topical. In a majority of cases, a combination of both is best. To explain further what these options are:
Systemic Antifungal Medications
This is usually effective against ringworm infections and often has to be given for not less than 6 weeks. Examples of commonly used systemic antifungal medications for the treatment of ringworm infection include itraconazole and terbinafine.
Using a topical antifungal therapy helps speed up the healing process while reducing contamination in the environment. Common topical therapy treatments include: antifungal creams, antifungal shampoos, and antifungal dips.
Eradicating Ringworm in the Environment
Hardy as they are, ringworm spores can stay in an environment for a long period of time. That said, if you have an infected cat, it is recommended to quarantine your cat in 1 room to prevent the infection from spreading around the house. This is because even if your cat becomes cured already, they may be re-infected if there are still ringworm spores present in the environment.
Petting our cat with ringworm may not be ideal because of the risk of infection even to humans, but we may not resist because we are the pet parents after all. On the other hand, there are many ways to still bond with our cats while they are infected.
One way is through interactive pet cameras such as the Petcube Cam, a smart and affordable HD pet camera with a 24/7 Online Vet. With the camera, you can see, talk, and keep tabs on your pet while they’re in quarantine.
The fact is that an infected environment may remain so for up to 2 years. Because of this, decontaminating your home by cleaning and using disinfectants that are vet-approved may help a lot in removing the infected spores from your home.
How to manage ringworm infection households with several cats
One infected cat in a multi-cat household may mean that all of the cats may be infected due to direct exposure. If this is the case, it is necessary to treat all cats and have a general cleaning of your home so as to eradicate the infection and prevent re-infection as well.
Online Vet and Emergency Fund
When it comes to ringworm infection in your cat, it would be a big help to be able to talk to someone who knows all about it and guide you throughout your cat’s treatment and healing process.
A kind of service that can help you attain that is Petcube’s Online Vet, a 24/7 online vet service for your pet’s wellbeing. With Online Vet, you get professional help from a team of licensed veterinarians anytime and anywhere.
In addition to this, having a Pet Emergency Fund such as that of Petcube offers the best pet insurance alternative. That way, you won’t have to worry about vet bills, especially during emergencies. Not to mention, it also gives you access to Petcube’s Online Vet service.
Can a cat give you ringworm?
Some may be thinking that ringworm is not contagious to humans. Unfortunately, this is not true. Petting our cat with ringworm may make us susceptible to the infection. While our skin is less prone to infection if it is unbroken, we may be able to catch the infection when we have wounds, cuts, and abrasions.
People who are more prone to it are those who have weaker immune systems, young children, and the elderly. Ringworm in people can be treated easily with the help of a medical professional. Seek advice from your physician if a family member is suspected of having ringworm.
How long to quarantine a cat with ringworm?
It would really help to be consistent in treating your cat with ringworm. First, it’s best to isolate them in just one room for two to four weeks. How fast the infection heals would depend on the situation. Periodically get ringworm cultures until the time when your cat is not infected anymore.
How to treat ringworm in cats without going to the vet?
While you should consult with a veterinarian before giving any medication to your cat, there are some home remedies that may help in the healing process. Among these remedies are: water and cat-safe soap, tea tree oil, diluted apple cider vinegar, and aloe vera.
Other than soap and water, before using the said ingredients, it is important to make sure that your cat doesn’t have skin sensitivities or allergies to it. Online Vet comes very handy in such situations to be able to consult with licensed veterinarians anytime and anywhere regarding how you can treat your cat at home.