Dermatophytosis in Cats
Dermatophytosis (ringworm) is a fungal infection which can affect humans and animals. Cats commonly form ringworm on the skin, hair and claws. It’s more common for your cat to catch ringworm if they’re a long-haired breed and are young of age. It’s important to bear in mind that it’s nothing you’ve done to cause your cat to develop ringworm, they’ve likely caught it from a source outside your home, however steps must be taken to eliminate the infection within your living environment.
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Symptoms and Types of Ringworm
Ringworm can be very difficult to spot in cats due to the lesions being very mild or undetectable. The ringworm fungi feeds of keratin which is found in the outer layers of the skin, hair and nails, hence why lesions usually form in these areas on those infected with ringworm.
Cats can suffer from a variety of annoying symptoms as a result of ringworm. Some of these symptoms include the following:
- Poor hair
- Irritated skin
- Darkened skin
- Hair loss which could be patchy or circular
- Raised, rounded, knotted lesions
- Inflammation of the folds of skin surrounding the claw
It is possible for cats not to display symptoms of ringworm yet still be infected, they’re classified as inapparent carriers. Even though these cats aren’t displaying any signs of illness they’re still just as contagious as those displaying various symptoms which is why it’s important to treat the infection as soon as possible.
Causes of Ringworm
Ringworm is a common infection which cats pick up all around the world. It’s more common for cats living in environments which are highly populated with animals, such as an animal shelter. Other aspects that can increase the likelihood of ringworm are poor nutrition, poor management practices and inadequate quarantine periods.
If your cat has immunocompromising disease or takes immunosuppressive medication then they will be more susceptible to catching a fungal infection such as ringworm. It’s very important to ensure your cat is treated straight away to avoid them becoming ill in such cases.
Your cat may be very uncomfortable and suffering from some of the symptoms listed above if they have developed ringworm. You may want to buy over the counter products to help relieve these symptoms in the short term to make your cat more comfortable and happy during their treatment. It’s important to check with your vet when using these products, especially if your cat is prescribed antibiotics to treat their ringworm. This is important because using various products can counteract medication or cause unwanted reactions.
You may see clear signs that your cat has ringworm, however it’s always best to get them checked over and confirmed by your vet, Your vet will perform a fungal culture of the skin clippings obtained, a microscopic examination of a sample of hair and potentially a skin biopsy.
In most cases your cat can be treated at home if the infection is treated quickly, however in certain types of ringworm should be isolated and quarantine procedures should be considered. The reason for being so cautious is because ringworm is extremely infectious and is not only contagious to other animals like dogs, but to humans as well. Your vet may need to prescribe antifungal medication depending on the severity of your cats ringworm, if this is the case it’s suggested they wear an Elizabethan collar (wide collar) to avoid your cat ingesting the medication applied to their skin.
Living and Management
Cats can appear as though they’re fully recovered from ringworm, however the ugly truth is they may still be infected. The only way you will truly know if your cat is no longer contagious is to take them for a fungal culture towards the end of their treatment for confirmation. It’s important to continue your cats treatment until they get a negative fungal culture.
In a lot of cases cats recover from ringworm within a few weeks, there are certainly improvements seen in most cases within two to three weeks. If your cat is proving to be more resistive against fighting ringworm then it may be necessary for them to have fungal cultures performed weekly. Your cat may have to continue treatment for a longer period of time, until they’ve had 3 consecutive fungal cultures to ensure they’ve fully beaten the infection.
If your cat is being treated with antifungal antibiotics then it’s essential they receive complete blood counts every week and biweekly if being treated with griseofulvin. Your vet may suggest blood work to monitor any liver changes if your cat is being treated with ketoconazole or itraconazole.
It’s important to take steps to avoid further cases of ringworm in your household. Quarantine periods periods and fungal cultures of other animals living with your cat are essential due to the infection being so contagious. You may consider treating the other animals within the same environment to avoid further cases and a vicious cycle of recurring cases.
It’s quite possible that rodents can aid the spreading of ringworm, it’s important to try and limit your cats access to rodents. If you’ve got rodents in your living in environment you should consider removing them.
Another key aspect to avoid spreading ringworm is to clean everything your cat has been in contact with. You should also avoid contact with your cat to avoid the infection spreading to you, which is very possible! Ensure you wash all bedding, toys, grooming tools and objects your cat has been in contact with to attempt to eliminate risks of spreading.
A Final Note
If you suspect your cat has ringworm then book an appointment straight away with your veterinarian. They will be able to provide you with the best advice and plan of action, as well as run appropriate tests and provide the correct medication/treatment. The sooner your cat gets treatment the less likely it is to spread!