Crusty skin, hair loss, and itching are signs no cat owner wants to see in their pet. But what do these signs mean? Could your cat have ringworm, and if so, what do you need to do? The following guide will discuss this contagious condition in cats and detail guidelines for quarantining your cat while they undergo treatment recommended by your veterinarian. Cats are typically contagious for around three weeks after initiating therapy,
What Is Ringworm?
Ringworm, also known as dermatophytosis, is a common fungal infection of the hair, skin, and nails. Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by worms but by dermatophytes—microscopic organisms that come from the soil and infect various host species. Microsporum canis is the dermatophyte most commonly responsible for ringworm in cats; this specific dermatophyte may also infect dogs and humans.
What Does Ringworm Look Like?
Ringworm can be noted anywhere on the body; however, the face, ears, feet, and tail are most frequently affected.
How Is Ringworm Spread?
Ringworm is a contagious, zoonotic disease– meaning it can spread from animals to humans. Transmission is common from direct exposure to infected cats; however, spread can also occur from contact with contaminated objects such as grooming tools, toys, bedding, or clothing. Ringworm can persist in the environment for years, causing additional infections unless contaminated areas are properly cleaned.
Next Steps if Ringworm Is Suspected
If you think your cat may have ringworm, a visit to the veterinarian is needed for further evaluation. Your veterinarian may diagnose ringworm based on a combination of physical exam findings and diagnostic tests, including Wood’s lamp evaluation, direct microscopic examination, fungal culture, and fungal PCR.
Once ringworm has been diagnosed in your cat, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options. Treatment typically involves systemic therapy with oral medication, topical therapy, and environmental decontamination:
Ringworm Quarantine Guidelines
After obtaining a ringworm diagnosis and starting treatment, your veterinarian will likely discuss quarantine recommendations for your cat. A quarantine, or period of isolation, is recommended for cats with ringworm to minimize the potential spread of the disease to other animals or humans. When a small area of the house is chosen for quarantine (such as a bathroom), it also allows for easier and more effective environmental decontamination. Key points that should be considered regarding quarantining your cat for ringworm include:
In our feline friends, ringworm can be a frustrating and labor-intensive disease to manage. Thankfully, ringworm is a very treatable condition with a good long-term prognosis. Treatment duration may vary, and response to treatment is often monitored with repeated fungal cultures. A cat is typically considered cured once two negative ringworm cultures have been obtained, 2-4 weeks apart. It is important to note that treatment for ringworm should not be discontinued until recommended by your veterinarian.
With a collaborative approach to treatment and a clear discussion of quarantine recommendations, veterinarians and cat owners can work together to make ringworm treatment as smooth and stress-free as possible!
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