Cat 101: Ringworm in Cats

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Ringworm is a common fungal infection that can affect cats, as well as other animals and humans. Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm but by various species of fungi known as dermatophytes. Here’s a comprehensive overview of ringworm in cats:

1. Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats:

  • Circular Lesions: Ringworm typically presents as circular, raised lesions on the skin, which may be red, crusty, or scaly. The lesions often have a distinctive ring-like appearance.
  • Hair Loss: Affected areas may exhibit hair loss, leading to bald patches on the cat’s skin. The hair around the lesions may appear brittle or broken.
  • Itching and Irritation: Cats with ringworm may experience itching and irritation in the affected areas, leading to scratching, licking, or biting of the skin.
  • Fungal Spores: In some cases, ringworm lesions may contain fungal spores that fluoresce under a Wood’s lamp, producing a greenish-yellow glow.

2. Transmission of Ringworm:

  • Ringworm is highly contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal or contaminated objects, such as bedding, grooming tools, or environmental surfaces.
  • Kittens, elderly cats, and cats with compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible to ringworm infection.

3. Diagnosis of Ringworm:

  • A veterinarian can diagnose ringworm through a combination of physical examination, Wood’s lamp examination, and fungal culture.
  • The Wood’s lamp examination is a simple diagnostic test in which the veterinarian shines a special ultraviolet light (Wood’s lamp) on the cat’s skin lesions. Fungal spores infected with certain species of ringworm fluoresce under the UV light, aiding in diagnosis.
  • Fungal culture involves collecting samples of hair or skin from the affected areas and culturing them in a laboratory to identify the specific fungal species causing the infection.

4. Treatment of Ringworm in Cats:

  • Treatment of ringworm in cats typically involves a combination of topical and systemic antifungal medications.
  • Topical treatments may include antifungal creams, ointments, or shampoos containing ingredients such as miconazole or ketoconazole. These medications are applied directly to the affected areas of the cat’s skin.
  • Systemic antifungal medications, such as griseofulvin, terbinafine, or itraconazole, may be prescribed by a veterinarian for more severe or widespread cases of ringworm. These medications are administered orally and work to eliminate the fungal infection from within.
  • Environmental decontamination is essential to prevent re-infection and spread of ringworm. Thoroughly clean and disinfect your cat’s living environment, including bedding, grooming tools, and other surfaces.

5. Prevention of Ringworm:

  • Practice good hygiene and sanitation to reduce the risk of ringworm transmission within multi-pet households. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling pets, especially if they have ringworm.
  • Implement a comprehensive flea control program to prevent flea infestations, as fleas can transmit ringworm to cats.
  • Avoid contact with stray or unknown animals, as they may be carriers of ringworm.

By understanding the symptoms, transmission, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of ringworm in cats, pet owners can take appropriate measures to protect their pets from infection and ensure their health and well-being. If you suspect your cat has ringworm or if you have any concerns about your pet’s health, consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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