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Fungal Foes: Ringworm in Cats – Causes Symptoms and Treatment

Ringworm in Cats: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

As cat owners, we are responsible for the health and wellbeing of our feline friends. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, our cats can still contract illnesses, including ringworm.

Ringworm, also known as dermatophytosis, is a common skin infection caused by fungal organisms. In this article, we will explore the basics of ringworm in cats, its causes, symptoms, and how vets diagnose the disease.

What is Ringworm in Cats? Ringworm in cats is a skin infection caused by dermatophytes, a group of fungi that feed on keratin, a protein found in hair, skin, and nails.

The most common fungi that cause ringworm in cats are Microsporum canis and Trichophyton mentagrophytes. Interestingly, both of these fungi can infect humans as well, making ringworm in cats a zoonotic disease.

Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats

Ringworm manifests as circular patches on the skin with scaly, itchy lesions that can lead to hair loss. Some cats may also develop granulomas, which are small nodules under the skin caused by an allergic reaction to the fungus.

Interestingly, some cats can carry the fungus without showing any symptoms, also known as asymptomatic carriers. These cats can spread the infection to other pets and humans.

Causes of Ringworm in Cats

Direct contact with infected cats, soil, or surfaces contaminated with the fungus can spread ringworm to cats. Fungal spores can survive for months in the environment, making it difficult to eradicate the disease.

Some predisposing factors that weaken a cat’s immune system or damage the skin barrier can also increase the risk of contracting ringworm. These factors include poor nutrition, stress, concurrent illnesses, and certain medications, such as corticosteroids.

The incubation period of ringworm is typically between one and three weeks.

How Vets Diagnose Ringworm in Cats

Diagnosing ringworm in cats can be challenging, as the symptoms can be similar to other skin diseases. There are several methods that vets use to diagnose ringworm in cats, including:

Wood’s Light Test: A special fluorescent lamp, called a Wood’s light, can be used to detect Microsporum canis, one of the most common ringworm fungi.

The lamp emits a UV light that causes the fungus to fluoresce, emitting a green glow. However, not all strains of the fungi will fluoresce, and the Wood’s light is not effective for detecting other ringworm fungi.

Microscopic Examination: Vets can take hair or skin samples from the affected area and examine them under a microscope for the presence of fungal spores. However, fungal spores can be difficult to see, and the results may not always be conclusive.

Fungal Culture: A fungal culture involves taking a sample of the edges of a lesion or a hair from the affected area and growing it in a culture medium. If the fungus grows, it can confirm a diagnosis of ringworm.

Fungal culture is also useful in detecting asymptomatic carriers and for environmental disinfection. PCR Testing: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is a DNA-based method that can confirm the presence of fungal DNA in hair samples.

PCR testing can help identify the species of the fungus, which can guide treatment and prevent further spread of the infection. Skin Biopsy: In some cases, a skin biopsy may be performed to rule out other skin conditions that mimic ringworm.

A skin biopsy involves taking a small sample of skin tissue and examining it under a microscope.


In conclusion, ringworm is a common skin infection in cats caused by dermatophyte fungi. It can cause symptoms such as circular patches, hair loss, and scaly lesions, and can spread easily through direct contact or contaminated surfaces.

Veterinarians can diagnose ringworm using a combination of methods, including Wood’s light test, microscopic examination, fungal culture, PCR testing, and skin biopsy. Early detection and treatment are crucial to prevent the spread of ringworm to other pets and humans.

If you suspect that your cat might have ringworm, make sure to consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Treatment for Ringworm in Cats: Topical and Oral Therapy

When it comes to treating ringworm in cats, there are several options depending on the severity of the infection.

Topical therapy involves using creams, ointments, shampoos, or dips to directly treat the affected area. Oral therapy, on the other hand, involves giving the cat antifungal medication via the mouth to treat the infection from within.

In this article, we will explore the types of topical and oral therapy commonly used to treat ringworm in cats.

Topical Therapy

Topical therapy is usually the first line of treatment for mild cases of ringworm in cats. Topical antifungal medications are applied directly to the affected area and are designed to kill the fungal spores on the skin.

These medications can include:

– Miconazole: Miconazole is an antifungal cream that is applied directly to the skin. It is effective at treating ringworm in cats caused by Microsporum canis.

– Lime Sulfur Dip: Lime sulfur dip is a sulfur compound that is diluted with water and is used to treat ringworm. The cat is soaked in the dip for 5-10 minutes, and the solution is left on the cat to air dry.

This treatment is repeated every 7-10 days. – Enilconazole: Enilconazole is a topical antifungal solution that can be used to treat ringworm in cats.

It is applied twice a day to the affected skin lesions for 10-14 days. It is important to follow the instructions provided by your vet or the product label when using topical therapy.

The topical antifungal medications are effective at killing the fungal spores on the skin, but they don’t always penetrate the hair follicles where the spores can reside, which is why oral therapy might be required.

Oral Therapy

Oral therapy is prescribed for cats with severe or widespread ringworm infections. Oral antifungal medications are usually more effective than topical ones because they are absorbed into the bloodstream.

The most commonly used oral medications for ringworm in cats include:

– Itraconazole: Itraconazole is a broad-spectrum antifungal medication that is administered orally. It is given for 2 to 4 weeks or until two consecutive negative fungal cultures are obtained.

Side effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, and liver damage. – Terbinafine: Terbinafine is another broad-spectrum antifungal medication given orally.

It can be administered for 2 to 6 weeks or until two consecutive negative fungal cultures are obtained. Side effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, and liver damage.

– Griseofulvin: Griseofulvin is an oral antifungal medication that is used less frequently due to its side effects and lower efficacy compared to itraconazole and terbinafine. It is advisable to consult your veterinarian before using oral therapy, as it can interfere with other medications your cat may be on and can have side effects.

Oral therapy can be more expensive and require more monitoring than topical therapy, but it is essential for treating ringworm effectively.

Disinfecting the Environment

Disinfecting the environment is an essential part of ringworm treatment for your cat. Ringworm spores shed into the environment and can survive for months on bedding, floors, and surfaces.

When treating ringworm in cats, it is necessary to disinfect the environment to prevent reinfection or spread of the fungus to other pets and humans in the household. Disinfection should include:

– Clipping the hair around the affected area to reduce the number of spores present.

– Cleaning and disinfecting the affected cat’s bedding and other areas where they spend time. This can be done using bleach or a veterinary disinfectant.

– Vacuuming can help remove spores from carpets, curtains, and other surfaces. – Cleaning and disinfecting grooming tools, litter boxes, and other objects.

Management of Ringworm in Cats

Managing ringworm in cats requires a commitment from cat owners because it is a highly contagious disease. Infected animals should be isolated from other pets and humans during treatment to prevent the spread of the fungus.

Ringworm is contagious for about two weeks after starting treatment, so it is essential to continue treatment for a sufficient amount of time. Furthermore, the time taken to recover from ringworm can be as long as six weeks, so patience is essential.

Alternative Medications

There are alternative treatments for ringworm in cats that can be used alongside or instead of antifungal medications. These treatments include:

– Immune system boosters: Vitamins and dietary supplements can be given to boost your cat’s immune system and help fight off the fungal infection.

Supplements such as beta-glucans and probiotics can help boost your cat’s immune system. – Herbal remedies: Some plant-based compounds, such as garlic or tea tree oil, have antifungal properties and can be used topically or orally to treat ringworm.

However, these remedies should be used with caution and only under veterinary guidance because some can be toxic to cats.

Ringworm FAQs

Is ringworm contagious to humans? Yes, ringworm is zoonotic, which means that it can spread from animals to humans and vice versa.

Humans with compromised immune systems, such as infants, elderly people, or those undergoing chemotherapy, are more susceptible to ringworm. If you suspect that you have contracted ringworm from your cat, seek medical attention promptly.

Are certain cat breeds more susceptible to ringworm? There is no particular breed susceptibility to ringworm.

Any cat can contract ringworm. Can ringworm go away on its own?

In some cases, mild cases of ringworm in cats will resolve on their own, but the timeframe can be lengthy, taking up to 6 months. Additionally, even asymptomatic carriers can still shed spores into the environment, so it’s always best to seek treatment.

What are the symptoms of ringworm in cats? The symptoms of ringworm in cats include patchy hair loss, circular skin lesions, and scaly skin.

Some cats may not show symptoms but can still be carriers of the fungus, shedding spores into the environment. Ringworm is a common fungal infection in cats that can be spread to humans.

It causes circular patches on the skin, hair loss, and scaly lesions, and can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Topical and oral therapy are common treatments for ringworm in cats, along with environmental disinfection and management techniques.

It is essential to follow the instructions provided by your vet and take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Being aware of the symptoms of ringworm in cats can help you detect it early and get prompt treatment for your feline friend.

Remember, ringworm treatment requires patience and commitment, and often takes time to recover fully. By following these guidelines and seeking timely treatment and support from your veterinarian, you can help your cat recover from ringworm and prevent the disease from spreading to other pets and humans in your household.

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