Classic symptoms of ringworm in cats include skin lesions that typically appear on the head, ears and forelimbs. Ringworm can cause flaky bald patches that sometimes look red in the center. In mild cases, there may be localized areas of redness or simply dandruff, while more severe infections can spread over a cat’s entire body. It’s also possible for a pet to carry ringworm spores and not show any symptoms whatsoever.
A cat can get ringworm directly through contact with an infected animal-or indirectly through contact with bedding, dishes and other materials that have been contaminated with the skin cells or hairs of infected animals. Ringworm spores are notoriously hardy and can survive in the environment for more than a year. And by the way, we are talking about domestic cats not the napping leopard in the image above!
Any cat can develop ringworm, but kittens less than a year old and geriatric cats are most prone to infection, while longhaired cats and those who are immunocompromised are also more susceptible. Ringworm can quickly spread in shelters or other crowded environments; warm and humid conditions tend to promote ringworm infections.
Because infection can potentially spread over a cat’s body, it is important that you see your vet for an accurate diagnosis if you suspect your pet has ringworm. And because the infection can easily spread to you and other animals in the household, it’s a smart idea to immediately quarantine your cat until a veterinarian can confirm a diagnosis. You should also thoroughly wash your hands after you touch your cat.
Since some cats show few or no symptoms, a diagnosis of ringworm is rarely made just by looking at the skin. A veterinarian may use an ultraviolet light to diagnose ringworm, or may examine a fungal culture taken from a cat’s hair or skin cells. Skin biopsy and microscopic exam are sometimes also performed.
Treatment of ringworm depends on the severity of the infection. A veterinarian may prescribe a shampoo or ointment that contains a special medication to kill the fungus. In some cases, oral medications are necessary. In order to ensure that you’ve eradicated this resistant and hardy fungus, treatment may have to be given for several months or more and fungal cultures rechecked periodically. It’s also important to treat the cat’s environment, too, to prevent infection from recurring.