Ringworm in cats is a highly contagious fungal skin disease. It is more common in kittens and long-haired cats but can affect all breeds and ages. It is also a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted to people, especially those with weakened immune systems.
Despite its name, ringworm is not actually caused by bugs, but rather by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, which in medicine is called dermatophytosis.
Because the disease is highly contagious, ringworm in cats should be treated as soon as possible. If you suspect your cat is suffering from ringworm, read on to find out what to do.
What is ringworm in cats?
This common skin disease is a fungal infection that feeds on the keratin in your cat’s fur, skin, and nails. This is called ringworm because the fungus creates round, ring-shaped growths on your cat’s skin and is commonly associated with hair loss. They are often found along with the head, ears, back, and forelimbs, but can be present anywhere on the body.
How do cats get ringworm?
Ringworm in cats is highly contagious and is most commonly spread through contact with an infected cat. It can spread quickly in multi-pet households as it spreads to skin and hair through mold spores. Ringworm is very common in kittens under 1 year of age because the immune system is still developing. It also affects long-haired cats more because the fungus sticks to the long fur and is more difficult to remove.
Ringworm Symptoms in Cats
At times, ringworm in cats can be difficult to detect because the symptoms are very mild. If your cat is showing symptoms, it may include –
- Annular lesions of cat skin
- Cat’s coat has a scaly texture or dandruff
- A round, thickened area of the skin with hair loss
- Painful, red, hard spots
Signs may vary from pet to pet and the signs above may also be symptoms of other feline skin conditions. You must show it to your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Ringworm in Cats
To diagnose ringworm in cats, your veterinarian may do a variety of tests, such as checking for fluorescence under a special UV lamp, taking a sample of cat fur for analysis under a microscope, or doing a blood test. However, the most reliable way is to take a sample of your cat’s fur brush and send it for lab testing. This option is usually the most accurate, but it takes the longest and you may have to wait up to two weeks to see results.
How Is Ringworm Diagnosed?
Ringworm cannot be diagnosed simply by looking at the lesion, as it can look like allergic flea dermatitis or cat acne. Three diagnostic tests are commonly used…
Wood Lamp Inspection
This test uses a special lamp that emits ultraviolet light of a specific wavelength. Hair infected with a type of ringworm will fluoresce in apple green.
The hairs of the suspected area are carefully pulled out and inoculated into a test medium, a special material for mushroom culture.
Polymerase Chain Reaction
This test checks for fungal DNA in a submitted sample and should be performed in a commercial veterinary laboratory.
How is Ringworm Treated?
In cats with small solitary lesions, ringworm is often treated with topical antifungal creams. In more severe cases, a combination of oral medications and “soaking” the body in a medicinal solution is used. As a rule, a solution called “lime sulfur” is used, which is very effective and safe.
Can other pets get ringworm from cats?
Thorough cleaning is essential to avoid infecting other animals with ringworm. However, keep in mind that not all animals raised together will develop ringworm if exposed. If other pets have a strong immune system and low-stress levels, they are more likely not to get infected.