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Cat disease - ringworm (Dermatophytosis)

Cat disease - ringworm

Ringworm is a contagious fungal infection of the skin, caused by Microsporum canis. It is not caused by a worm. It is spread from person to person, from animal to person, or indirectly from contaminated objects. Ringworm infects three sites: scalp, body and nails.

Ringworm is typically seen in young cats and long-haired cats, and cats with pre-existing skin disease or trauma are more likely to become infected. Diseases or medications that suppress the immune system generally render the cat more susceptible to ringworm.

Typical lesions are circular areas of hair loss (alopecia) on the hair coat; however, any change in the hair coat and/or skin may be consistent with ringworm. The affected skin often appears scaly and inflamed. Some cats suffer from severe skin disease while others have minor lesions, or even none at all.

What to Watch For :
  • Circular areas of hair loss (alopecia)
  • Scaly and inflamed skin

Cat Diagnosis

Ringworm often looks similar to other skin diseases, so it is difficult to diagnose based on skin appearance alone. Your veterinarian will run diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of the fungus. Some of these test may include:
  • Laboratory tests to include a complete blood count, biochemical profile, and urinalysis if immune suppression is a suspected underlying cause of the ringworm
  • A fungal culture to provide positive identification
  • Woods lamp examination. If the area fluoresces under the light, ringworm is suspected. However, culture is still strongly recommended. A negative fluorescence does not rule out ringworm, as several species of the ringworm do not fluoresce.
  • Microscopic examination of hairs

The treatment for ringworm can be both frustrating and expensive, especially in a multi-pet household. Treating both the cat and the environment are of equal importance. Many cats will resolve an infection spontaneously over several months, but treatment generally expedites cure and helps reduce environmental contamination. Nevertheless, some infections can persist. Vaccines for ringworm are available, but are only used in addition to treatment.

Cat Systemic treatment.

There are several different oral medications available. Griseofulvin is the most commonly prescribed, and it needs to be given with food. Your cat will also have to have her blood count monitored by your veterinarian to watch for possible bone marrow suppression (low white blood cell, red blood cell, and platelet counts) as a side effect. If there is a possibility of pregnancy, alert your doctor at once, as certain medications may be contraindicated.

Cat Topical treatment.

Anti-fungal creams and shampoos are important in reducing environmental contamination. This usually includes clipping the hair of affected cats and dipping in lime sulfur or antiseptics.

Cat Home Care and Prevention

At home, give your cat prescribed medication as directed by your veterinarian. Return for follow-up appointments as directed. If side effects develop, early detection can reverse these effects. Culturing your cat for ringworm is the only true means of monitoring response to therapy.

Due to the contagious nature of ringworm to humans, care should be taken to wash hands thoroughly after handling the cat. Immunocompromised individuals should exercise extreme caution and may want to consider not handling the cat until fully recovered.

Extreme care can help prevent ringworm disease. When bringing a new cat into a household, use a quarantine period and do a fungal culture to test for the presence of the fungus. You can also employ preventative treatment of exposed animals.


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