Ringworm is the common name given to an infection on the surface of the skin, hair or nails with a type of fungus called dermatophyte; it is not a worm. There are different types of dermatophyte, some are more common in cats than others. They affect other animals and people too, so care should be taken when handling suspected cases.
Ringworm can affect any cat but is mre likely to be seen in young or very old cats, ill or debilitated cats, cats with an impaired immune system, and long haired cats.
How do they catch it? The infective part of the fungus is the spore. This is shed on the hairs of infected animals or people and can survive, blown by the wind, for many months or even years. Cats become infected by exposure to these spores, either through contact with an infected animal or exposure to a contaminated object or environment. Cats with poor immune systems or sores on the skin, skin parasites such as fleas are more susceptible to infection.
However, saying that NOT all cats become infected as some are more resistant to infection from the spores. They can still carry the spores unaffected and pass them on to other cats or people though.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
Ringworm is most commonly seen on the face, ears and forelimbs, but will be present throughout the the coat The fungus invades the hair shafts and surface layer of the skin and this leads to;
crusting and scaling
possible vomiting of hairballs or constipation due to over grooming from itching.
more unusual signs are scabs all over the body or sore ulcerated areas of skin. Ringworm can sometimes mimic other skin diseases.
In affected people the skin often shows small thickened red patches or patches of hair loss with scaling which may be itchy. Following exposure to spores, infection in people is more likely to be children, very old or immunosuppressed people. consult your doctor if suspected.
Testing to confirm ringworm includes
Woods lamps - a special ultra violet light, but not 100% as some other skin diseases fluoresce and not all types of ringworm do.
Microscope examination of the hairs - sometimes they can be seen attached to the hair.
Culture - in a lab it can take up to 21 days.
Skin Biopsy - occasionally done when ringworm is a suspected secondary problem to another disease.
Ringworm will spontaneously resolve in most healthy cats over a period weeks or months. In addition treatment is recommended to speed up the process and limit the spread of infection to others. All cats in contact with Ringworm-positive cats should also be treated as they are likely to be carrying the fungal spores with out showing signs. They can reinfect themselves or others. treatment can include...
anti-fungal medicine given orally. treated cats can look clear when they still are infected so 3 negative cultures from hair brushing are recommended before ceasing treatment.
topical treatment on the coat, e.g. shampoos or sprays may be needed in addition to oral medicine.
clipping of long hair cats to remove spores.
elimination of other problems such as fleas or other skin diseases.
keep affected cats in one room to help prevent environmental build up.
decontaminating the areas used by thoroughly vacuuming and regular disinfection to remove spores. Discard collars, brushes, bedding, fabric toys and clean non porous surfaces with 1:10 bleach solution and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing. Allow to dry before giving cats access again.
not grooming affected cats until they are better if possible, to reduce the risk of spreading spores through brushing and environmentally.
minimise contact with infected cats, wear rubber gloves where possible.
Any questions please shout!!