Feline Ringworm otherwise known as Dermatophytosis is a fungal skin condition. Many people are concerned that it is an actual worm like the name suggests, this is incorrect, ringworm has nothing to do with any type of worm.
Ringworm is caused by a group of fungi. The most common, causing about 70% of infections, is a contemptible bug known in the underworld as Micosporum canis.
Ringworm in animals usually appears as a rapidly growing circular patch of broken hair. Dandruff appears on the lesion and sometimes the patch has an inflamed margin. The hair may start to grow back in the centre of the patch while the extremity of the patch is still expanding. However, in cats, ringworm may not cause any obvious effects and therefore can be quite difficult to detect, especially if the cat is long-haired.
Please remember that if one cat in a house contracts ringworm it is more than likely that all the other cats living in the home will eventually catch this fungi infection. Wooden buildings will carry ringworm spores indefinitely. Wooden buildings are not a good idea when ringworm gets into them! They cannot be properly disinfected.
If ringworm is suspected we would recommend contacting your vet for a correct diagnosis. Initially, your veterinarian is likely to scan the lesions with an ultraviolet lamp called a Wood’s light. In about 60% of cases, the infected hair shafts will glow a bright green colour. Sometimes the hairs in the lesion will be plucked and added to a culture medium where the fungus will grow. Alternatively, skin scrapings are taken and are then examined under a microscope after special staining.
Although there have been several studies which showed that this fungal infection should eventually resolve on its own, typically, this can take up to four months, which is a long time in a home environment for contamination to be occurring continuously. We recommend treatment for this infection rather than waiting for it to go away. Your vet will give you the best options and advice on what to use. He may recommend either a cream or a shampoo. In severe cases he may subscribe a course of antifungal tablets. These may need to be used for a few months.
It just doesn’t stop there; you will also have to treat the home environment. Vacuum the house thoroughly as well as destroying all bedding and blankets. Disinfecting the environment is important. The fungal spores will live on hair in the environment for over a year so sanitising the environment is vital or a recurrence is likely.
Please remember that ringworm is classed as a zoonotic disease, this means that the infection may pass from your cat to yourself. About 50% of people living with a ringworm infected cat will develop the infection. The fungus takes advantage of skin belonging to those with reduced immune systems. This puts children and the elderly more at risk. If you think you may have ringworm please contact your doctor for treatment.
Always remember Ringworm is not life threatening and although it has a bad stigma attached to it your cat will be treated and will recover.