The name “ringworm” might bring to mind an actual worm. However, it really is a fungus that does damage to skin, hair, and nails. Ringworm is a common skin issue in cats, and is highly contagious.
How is Ringworm Detected?
Ringworm is not always easy to spot on cats. Sometimes, you are able to see a “cigarette ash” looking mark in your cat’s coat. You might also discover round and thick patches of skin and hair loss. However, more often than not you will have a hard time identifying whether your cat has ringworm. For this reason, it’s a good best practice to keep an eye on the chest, forelegs, head, and ridge of your cat’s back where the fungus commonly occurs.
Though less common, claws can also become infected by ringworm. If this happens, you’ll notice that your cat’s claws are rough and have a scaly base.
How is Ringworm Spread?
Cats get ringworm from other animals that have it, or simply by sleeping on their beds or dwelling within the same areas. Ringworm can also be transmitted through bowls or dishes and the spores of ringworms can live for up to a year, waiting to infect the animals that come across them.
When a cat becomes infected, it can take up to 21 days for any symptoms to appear. Most of the time, however, you’ll start to see the signs of ringworm seven to fourteen days following infection.
How to Stop the Spread of Ringworm
If one of your cats or another pet was diagnosed with ringworm, all of your animals are at risk of becoming infected with it.
To avoid this situation, it is important to consult your veterinarian. They will probably recommend that you wash your animals with medicated shampoos and wash the bedding your animals sleep on as well as any toys they play with.
They might also suggest you throw away scratching posts and keep the carpet vacuumed and cleaned. It’s also important to feed your animals from separate bowls to ensure that they aren’t spreading ringworm through food and water.
Risk Factors for Ringworm in Cats
All cats are susceptible to the infection, though some are more prone to catching it than others. Kittens less than one year old, geriatric cats, and longhaired cats are more at risk. If you adopted a cat from a shelter, you’d need to check it for ringworm right away to ensure it’s not contagious.
How to Diagnose Your Cat with Ringworm
If you suspect that your cat has ringworm, take it to a veterinarian. While there, your vet will take some skin and hair, as well as a culture of the fungus in the laboratory. It can take as little as a few days or up to four weeks for a culture to turn up positive for ringworm.
Treating Your Cat for Ringworm
There are various ways to treat ringworm. Topical therapy such as creams and ointments can be used (keep in mind you may have to cut your cat’s hair around the ringworm and apply the topical treatment.) Your vet might also recommend using medicated shampoos.
Oftentimes, a topical treatment won’t suffice, and you’ll also need to give your cat an oral anti-fungal drug. Usually, it’ll take at least six weeks for the ringworm to go away. It’s also is important to keep your cat’s living space clean and sterile to avoid the infection popping up again.
During treatment, you’ll want to make sure you separate your cat from other animals and put him in areas that aren’t as easy to spread ringworm. If you have small children, don’t let them play with your cat, as they may contract it. Your vet can help provide you with tips on how to protect you and your young ones from ringworm.
How Long Does Treatment Typically Take?
With proper treatment, cats will typically be healed from ringworm within a few weeks. However, if it doesn’t seem to be getting better, you may have to go back to the vet and seek out different anti-fungal drugs.
Don’t be alarmed if your cat has ringworm. The good news is that it’s a treatable condition and with the help of a vet, he will feel better in no time. He may be uncomfortable now, but he will heal with a little medicine and care.