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Ringworm in Cats

What is Ringworm?

Although it’s called ringworm it’s not actually a worm. Ringworm is a fungus. This highly contagious fungal infection affects both pets and humans. Ringworm spores can be found on the animal or in the environment such on the bedding — anything that comes in contact with the animal’s hair.

How it’s Transmitted

Transmission occurs by coming in direct contact with the infected animal’s hair or by coming in contact items in an environment that have also been in contact with the animal’s hair.

Young cats, ones living in stressful conditions or cat-dense environments, geriatric cats and ones with compromised immune systems are more likely to become infected.

Many healthy adults usually have a resistance to the fungal infection.

Symptoms of Ringworm

The typical symptom is a crusty skin patch with missing hair or broken-off, stubble-like hair. Lesions most commonly appear on the head, ears, tail or nails.

Ringworm lesions may or may not cause irritation and itching.

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Diagnosis of Ringworm

A fungal culture is the most reliable method. The veterinarian will collect skin scales and hair samples to culture.

A less reliable method is through the use of a Wood’s lamp. This is a special black light that causes the fungus to fluoresce. Not all types of ringworm fluoresce though.

Treatment of Ringworm

In mild cases a topical cream is often prescribed. In more serious cases your veterinarian will prescribe both an oral and topical medication. The topical treatment in more serious cases is usually a lime sulfur dip.

Several fungal cultures are repeated after treatment to ensure the infection has completely cleared.

The Environment Must be Treated as Well

The fungal spores can live quite a while in the environment so an important part of treatment involves thorough cleaning. Vacuum and steam-clean carpets. Clean floors with a damp mop to avoid causing the spores to become airborne. Bleach mop heads afterward.

Disinfect all pet bedding, grooming tools, litter boxes, and carriers.

Need More Information?

If you notice any reddened, crusty or bald patches on your cat or notice something doesn’t look normal with the skin or hair, have your cat examined by your veterinarian. For more information on cat health, cat behavior and cat training, refer to the book Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett.

Books by Pam Johnson-Bennett