Ringworm is one of the best known skin diseases associated with cats. It owes its importance to its ease in infecting other cats and even humans. It is therefore essential to implement preventive measures.
We explain how to detect ringworm with its first symptoms and of course, how to eliminate it effectively and avoid infections.
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What is feline ringworm?
Ringworm is a dermatophytosis, that is, a dermatological disease caused by a fungus , often Microsporum canis , that lives in the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and nails.
In general, these are fungi that usually fail to penetrate the skin and only do so when some imbalance occurs, such as wounds or lesions caused by parasites .
Ringworm is more likely to occur in kittens that have not yet mature their immune system or in those animals that are more weakened due to age or because they suffer from some other disease.
Thus, it is a contagious disease but, in general, it will only pose a problem in those animals or humans with weakened immune systems. This explains why, even within a close coexistence, not all the animals in a house are affected.
Who can get ringworm?
A healthy animal can come into contact with the fungus without developing the disease because its body’s defenses will be efficient enough to control its progress. In this way, the ringworm would be self-limiting, without causing major damage.
Instead, it will be easier for them to catch it:
- Kittens under one year of age.
- Adult cats that suffer from any disease, especially immunodeficiency.
- Cats that are going through stressful situations.
- Older cats.
- Long-haired cats because they have a harder time removing spores during grooming.
- Therefore, children, immunocompromised people and the elderly will also be risk groups in humans.
Symptoms of ringworm in kittens
Ringworm can produce a circular-looking lesion in which we will observe alopecia, scaling and, sometimes, an inflamed appearance. These lesions are usually located on the head, ears and legs, although there are also cases of generalized presentation, with large areas without hair. It may or may not be itchy.
Any hairless area that we detect in our cat is a reason for veterinary consultation since, if it is ringworm, it is important that we implement the appropriate preventive measures and start treatment, as it is a zoonosis.
How is feline ringworm diagnosed?
If the condition presented by our cat is compatible with ringworm, the veterinarian will use a Wood’s lamp to confirm or rule out the diagnosis. This lamp emits an ultraviolet light capable of illuminating fungi that can be found on the skin by staining them green.
To do this, the office door is closed and the light is turned off. We must hold the cat on the examination table while the veterinarian passes the lamp a few centimeters away from his body, exploring all areas.
As we can see, it is a simple and non-invasive procedure . In doubtful cases, since not all fungi light up, the vet may examine a hair sample under a microscope or perform a culture, which will take several weeks to provide results.
Treatment to eliminate ringworm in a cat
As it is a pathology of fungal origin, the treatment consists of the application of drugs against fungi. Depending on the case, the vet will opt for a topical medication, in the form of shampoos or sprays, systemic, through the administration of pills or syrup, or both. These treatments are long, lasting 3-4 weeks at least .
In addition to medication, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the key to overcoming these diseases is to strengthen the immune system. For this, it is essential to keep the cat in a stress-free environment and offer it a high-quality diet .
We must also treat any other concurrent disease and control the presence of parasites, as they cause skin damage . If the cat has long hair, it is convenient to cut it.
Care for a kitten with ringworm
As we have mentioned, avoiding stress is essential to avoid weakening the immune system. Therefore, a cat being treated for ringworm should not be subjected to changes that imply an adaptive effort.
If food is always important, during pathological processes it becomes crucial. Thus, whether the diet we offer is commercial or homemade, we must opt for the one that provides higher quality ingredients .
If the prescribed treatment is topical, we must prevent the cat from accessing the product, which, on occasions, will involve the use of an Elizabethan collar, at least during the time in which we cannot monitor it. Let us bear in mind that this collar is a stressor for many animals.
Of course, we must continue the treatment according to the veterinarian’s recommendations and, very importantly, continue it until its conclusion even if we previously observe improvement.
In a house with several animals, even if only one is diagnosed with ringworm, certain preventive measures must be adopted, starting with checking healthy animals, since ringworm can be asymptomatic, but it must be treated as well.
The affected cat should be isolated, although this is not always possible. In any case, it is advisable to wash your hands well after handling it , use gloves, change clothes and sweep or vacuum daily to prevent the spores released from the fungus , which are its infective form, from infecting other animals or people. These spores are very resistant and manage to survive for years in the environment.
We must disinfect the house with bleach and if there are objects that cannot be cleaned we will have to throw them away. In addition, if there are sick people, children or the elderly in the family, we will prevent them from coming into contact with the cat until the veterinarian confirms that it is free of fungi.