- What is Ringworm?
The name of “Ringworms” comes from the classical appearance of the round, red, raised ‘ring’ marking the boundary of inflammation in people infected with the disease. The common name of ringworm is somewhat misleading, in that it is not an infection caused by a worm, and the infected areas are not always ring-shaped. Ringworm is often seen in cats, even indoor cats.Ringworm is a fungal infection that can affect the skin, fur, and claws. It can cause crusty and bald patches and itchiness. In cats, about 98% of ringworm cases are caused by the fungus Microsporum canis. The fungus is spread easily in the environment and often infects people.
- What Causes Ringworm?
Cat ringworm is caused by a fungal organism that lives just about anywhere in the environment. It is found in soil and thrives particularly in warm, humid environments. Ringworm agents aren’t restricted to soil, though; the fungal spores are tiny enough that they can easily hitch a ride on blankets, clothing and fur and be transported indoors, where they can flourish as well.
Cats can carry the fungal spores of ringworm and show symptoms of the disease, or they might not show any symptoms at all. Either way, spores can spread to other cats quite easily. The common causes are:
- Direct contact from touching another animal that has ringworm;
- Indirect contact from touching the bedding, food and water dishes, toys, and other items that a carrier or infected pet has touched;
- Exposure doesn’t always result in a case of ringworm. Animals with weak immune systems, as well as those with skin sensitivities, are especially prone to ringworm.
- What Are the Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats?
In cats, the main sites for these lesions are the skin on the head, chest, forelegs, and along the ridge of the back. These lesions are usually not itchy. Occasionally, infection of the claws known as onychomycosis may occur. The claws become rough, pitted, and develop a scaly base and they may eventually become deformed. Ringworm may sometimes cause a more generalized disease where a much larger area of the body is affected, often seen as patchy hair loss.
- Main Symptoms
Red rings on the skin
Scaly or flaky skin
Lesions and sores
There are also special conditions: some cats may have ringworm but will not show any symptoms.
- How is ringworm diagnosed in cats?
When your cat has some symptoms similar to cat ringworm in the early stage, you can try to take an examination under ultraviolet (Wood’s lamp) illumination at home.
A Wood’s lamp emits ultraviolet light of a particular wavelength. During infection with ringworm a product is produced within infected hairs that causes them to fluoresce an apple-green colour under Wood’s lamp illumination. This can be a quick and easy test to see if ringworm infection is likely, however:
Only around 50% of cases of ringworm infection show fluorescence
Other dermatophyte infections do not result in fluorescence
Some medications or contaminants on the skin and hair can also cause fluorescence
For these reasons, other tests are also needed to make the diagnosis. Of course, it is more recommended to communicate with your veterinarian in time and not to use drugs indiscriminately.
- How to Prevent Cat Ringworm?
If you bring a new cat home, consider a quarantine period for the new addition, along with a culture for the ringworm organism, especially if the new cat has any signs of an unhealthy coat or skin;
If your cat has ringworm already, you can keep your cat in a small room that’s easy to clean until their infection has cleared. Try to avoid rooms with carpeting.
- Wear gloves while handling a cat who has ringworm;
- Wash your hands with soap and water after you’ve handled a cat with ringworm;
- Vacuum your home to remove fur and skin flakes, which could spread ringworm;
- Remove cat hair from your furniture, bedding, and clothing;
- Thoroughly disinfect surfaces where your cat sleeps or hangs out, including their pet carrier;
If you have a weak immune system, avoid handling your cat with ringworm if possible. Frequent hand washing can also help to keep you from getting ringworm.
Ringworm can take weeks or months to clear when an infection has developed. Keeping your cat in their best health is the best way to ward off this itchy and lingering fungal skin infection.