What is Ringworm on cats? It is also known as dermatophytosis, is a cat fungal infection on skin with nothing to do with a worm. It is a widely occurring skin, nail, and hair disease among cats around the globe. Can you get ringworm from cats? Yes, it is highly contagious and can transmit easily from cats to humans and dogs, thus called a zoonotic disease. Despite being called ringworm is not related to worms in any way but is similar to athletes’ foot disease in humans. It is a fungal infection where the fungus derives its nutrition from the infected animal’s skin for its survival. Generally, it occurs in kittens and cats with long hair. Now let’s know how do cats get ringworm and its treatments.
How Do Cats Get Ringworm?
The class of fungus responsible for causing this disease in cats is Dermatophytes, and the medical name for the disease is dermatophytosis. They mainly originate from the soil and acts as parasites outside the soil. It survives in areas with warm, humid climates. These are classified into 3 categories depending on where they live.
- Geophilic- live in the soil
- Anthrophilic – live on humans
- Zoophilic- live on animals
The species of ringworms that mainly affects the cats is known as Microsporum canis and belongs to the zoophilic category. The two less common species that cause the same infection in cats are Microsporum gypsum and Trichophyton spp. Cats catch this infection when they contact the fungus or the invisible spores(seeds) released by it.
You know how long is ringworm contagious for? These spores can remain on the surface for as long as 2 years. The fungus can contact various surfaces such as blankets, towels, and other grooming surfaces. Once the fungus finds its host, it feeds on protein in nails, hairs, and skin, especially on keratin protein. Generally, the infection is quite difficult to recognize as the lesions are very mild and are not visible easily. Here are what causes ringworms in cat:
- Contact with infected people or animals
- Visiting such places and care facilities where spores of the fungus may be present.
- Sitting or lying on an infected floor or mattress
- On touching infected surfaces containing fungal spores such as carpets, furnishings, etc.
Animals having susceptible skin and weak immunity are more prone to this disease.
Symptoms Of Ringworm In Cats
Ringworm is quite tricky to detect, some cats may show their symptoms, while some may be asymptomatic. The symptoms may vary in appearance and severity, as it begins with the appearance of patchy red, round and inflamed areas on the skin of the cat, including loss of hair, etc. But the symptoms are not limited to these conditions only. A wide variety of signs are displayed some of them are :
#1 Red rings
The infected area in cats show the formation of a red, ring-shaped, raised structure, where the loss of hair occurs. It can include the formation of bumps and open sores on the body.
#2 Lesion formation
Irregular patches may also appear on the cat’s skin apart from rings. These lesions and bumps come up with itching. The size of these lesions increases with the severity of the disease.
Is is ringworm itchy for your cat? Yes, Itching is a sign of a disease, usually, the kitten starts scratching the part of her body where the fungus may be present. Itching may or may not occur with the lesions. It can help you detect the presence of ringworm in the beginning only. Itching is also known as pruritus. In some cats, itching can occur in the ears also.
#4 Loss of Hairs and Redness
Loss of hair in cats due to ringworm, can be uniform or non-uniform in the infected area, and the skin may appear red.
The ringworm affected area appears to have a lot of dandruff over it. It can range from mild to severe.
#6 Hyperpigmentation of Skin
The hyperpigmentation refers to the darkening of skin and can be seen as a result of ringworm infection in some cats.
#7 Appearance of Blackheads
Ringworm infection in young cats is diagnosed by the appearance of blackheads in the chin area.
#8 Nail infection
The Ringworm-infected cats suffer from nail deformation. Their nails may look rough and pitiful. Only some of the infected Cats show coarse or greasy nails.
In cats, the incubation period of the disease varies from 7 to 14 days and 21 days in some cases.
Can You Get Ringworm from Cats?
Ringworm is a highly contagious and can spread to others either directly or indirectly. Yes, is is easy to get ringworm from cats to humans, just by touching an infected area of your kitten. There are possibilities of not catching the infection if you don’t have broken skin. But if you have wounds, cuts, scratches, and suffer from other skin ailments, you are more likely to catch the infection shortly.
Persons with a weak immune system and delicate and sensitive skin are more prone to getting ringworms. Kids, youngsters, elderly persons, or people undergoing various treatments such as transplanting organs, blood transfusion, or chemotherapy are also not less susceptible to it. On the other hand, the infection can spread indirectly by touching contaminated objects or surfaces. Make sure to check for how to treat ringworm in cats here. If you and your family members suspect a skin infection, you must see your physician immediately.
Diagnosis of Ringworms in Cats
Specific tests help you diagnose ringworm’s presence in your cat and not any other skin or hair infection. They are;
#1 Wood’s Lamp
It is also known as black light, is used by a veterinarian to diagnose ringworm. The veterinarian examines the cat’s fur and skin in a dark room under a special wood lamp, also known as an ultraviolet lamp. If the ringworm glows with a yellowish-green fluorescence, then the disease’s presence is confirmed. But some of the species of fungus may not glow and hence can’t be detected. Therefore additional diagnostic tests may be required.
#2 Fungus Culture
This is the slowest and most reliable test to confirm ringworm in cats. Here the samples of a cat’s fur and skin are taken and immersed in a special medium to check whether the fungus present in it grows or not. If it shows growth, ringworm is confirmed. This test may take weeks to display results.
#3 Polymer chain reaction test
It is a non-invasive method similar to the culture method. The only difference in both the tests is that the PCR test gives results within a few days only, whereas the culture test may take up to weeks.
It is the most accurate and invasive way of diagnosing ringworm in cats. In this method, a sample of the cat’s skin is taken by cutting and then sent to the laboratory for microscopic examination. It may take up to several days to display the results.
How Do You Get Rid of Ringworm in Cats?
#1 Oral treatment
Looking for how to cure ringworm fast? Its a best option. In this method, cats are administered with oral antifungal drugs. The most popular antifungal drug used is griseofulvin. Other newer drugs include itraconazole and terbinafine, also known as Lamisil, which are used for treatment and have very few side effects. Mostly the duration of treatment remains six weeks and may vary with the severity of the disease. If it is stopped too soon, the infection may occur again.
#2 Environmental Cleaning
It is one of the best ringworm treatment for cats. There are chances of the environment getting contaminated by the infected hairs of the deceased cat. Thus anyone can catch the infection by coming in contact with the fungal spores present in the contaminated environment. Therefore, it is crucial to keep your environment clean to prevent the transmission of the disease to others.
#3 Topical Treatment
This ringworm treatment at home is used along with oral treatment. There are several creams and ointments available in the market you can opt for treating ringworms. These are applied to the infected area of the cat’s skin after removing the hair. Other than this, there is medicated shampoo, which should be used only after a recommendation from your veterinarian for bathing your cats timely. The duration of this treatment may range from a few weeks to a few months.
How to Prevent Ringworm in Cats?
Ever wondered does ringworm go away on its own? Despite being a highly contagious disease, it can be prevented from spreading by taking the appropriate measure. The first and most crucial step is maintaining proper hygiene and cleanliness in and around your house. Proper and safe handling of the pet is also very crucial. Washing hands before and after handling the cat can minimize the risk of infection. Don’t let your cat interact and combat with other cats that are outsiders, as they may catch the infection from there. If you suspect any ringworm infection around you or in your pet, immediately separate it from others to prevent the infection from spreading to other members.
Ringworm can be very difficult and frustrating to treat. It may go away on its own but can be a time-consuming process. So to make your cat feel healthy and better, consult your vet as soon as you suspect the symptoms of ringworm infection. While your cat is under treatment, keep her isolated to ensure the safety of others and the cat. Providing your good cat health can keep off this annoying fungal infection.