Ringworms in Cats

ringworm in catOne of the most common skin infections cats are suffering from is ringworm. While the name suggests that worms cause the infection, the fact is that no such organisms are involved. Ringworms are caused by parasitic, fungal organisms, which feed on the dead outer skin, hairs and claws. These organisms are collectively referred to as dermatophytes, which is the scientific word for plants that live on the skin.

How Cats Become Infected

The fungi that cause ringworm can be found in the environment but in most cases, they thrive in the skin of other animals. If your cat comes in contact with another one infected with the ringworm, there are high chances that it will be infected. Alternatively, it may contract this fungal infection from its immediate environment such as contaminated bedding, furniture, carpet or grooming equipment.

Usually, the fungi produce numberless spores, which attach to hairs and then shed to the environment where they can remain dormant but infective for months just waiting for the opportunity to attack and start their cycle. These organisms thrive in areas with poor hygiene.

Signs and Symptom of Ringworm in Cats 

Cat ringworm normally does not cause very prominent signs and symptoms. However, with very close inspection, it is possible to notice some telltale lesions on the head, forelimbs, tail and the ears. The classic ringworm lesions are circular patches or rough, scaly skin with a characteristic red outline and broken hairs.

However, do not wait to see these lesions because up to 20 percent of infected cats are asymptomatic carriers. This means they can spread the infection to other pets they encounter as well as humans. In such cats, the only evidence of skin infection is poor hair quality that easy fall off during grooming. You may also notice some hair falling off when the cat scratches itself.

Diagnosis of Cat Ringworm

As already been discussed, ringworm in cats can be asymptomatic. It requires high index of suspicion to recommend the cat for screening and testing from ringworm. It is therefore a good practice to have your cat checked regularly by a veterinary doctor. The following are the common tests carried out to diagnose cat ringworm.

  • Wood’s Lamp: This is perhaps the most widely used method of diagnosis because of its simplicity. It involves the used of ultraviolet Wood’s lamp or black light. When the light is focused in the skin, the affected hair shafts will glow fluorescent green. The sensitivity of this test is only 50 percent.
  • Biopsy: In cases where the characteristic lesions are atypical, then a portion of the tissue from the lesion can be taken and then processed for microscopic identification.
  • Microscopy: This rapid diagnostic test involves microscopic examination of the hair shafts obtained from the cat for the presence of the fungal spores.
  • Fungal culture: In this method, samples will be taken from by your veterinarian from you cat and then grown in a fungal culture. After multiplication then the growth characteristics can be used to identify the responsible organism.

 

Treatment of Cat Ringworm

Ringworm in cats is treatable. There are many types of treatment but the specific method that will be used by the veterinarian depends on the severity of the infection. The treatment must also include the surrounding environment where the cat spends its time to prevent re-infection and recurrence. The veterinarian may prescribe medicated ointments and shampoos.

Alternatively, an oral antifungal drug may be prescribed. Currently, the only approved drug for cat ringworm is griseofulvin (Fulvicin). However, other drugs that can be used include Ketoconazole (Nizoral), Itraconazole, Terbinafine (Lamisil). You need to talk to your veterinarian before using these drugs on your cat. A ringworm vaccine has also been developed by Fort Dodge. It is called Fel-O-Vax and it is not yet widely available.

In my older post, I wrote an article about ringworm treatment in dogs.

What Causes Ringworm in Children

ringworm-in-childrenRingworm is a common skin condition especially among children. The term ringworm is confusing because there are no worms involved in this condition. It is actually a fungal infection involving the surface of skin. The medical designation for ringworm is Tinea. This name ringworm came from the fact that these fungi (also known as dermatophytes) tend to produce ring-like lesions on the skin of involved parts and the earlier belief that it is a worm that was responsible.

Causes of Ringworm

Inasmuch as ringworm is common and compatible with life, it can be a big source of stress to parents. This is because they are so persistent and remit from one site only to surface at another area of the body. In addition, ringworm is so contagious and can also be transmitted to humans from pets such as dogs and cats.

The question many parents are asking themselves is what causes ringworm in children? As already been mentioned, ringworm is caused by fungi known as dermatophytes. There are many strains that cause infection in different parts of the body. These include Trichophyton rubrum, Trichophyton tonsurans, Trichophyton interdigitale, and/or Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Microsporum canis, and Epidermophyton floccosum.

Doctors specialized on skin conditions are known as dermatologists and they refer to ringworm as Tinea. Some of the fungi have predilection to the skin of particular parts of the body. Doctors identify them by referring to ringworm of different sites with different names. This gives rise to the following nomenclature:

  • Tinea Corporis for ringworm of the body
  • Tinea Capitis for ringworm involving the scalp
  • Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot) for ringworm of the foot
  • Tinea Crusis (Jock Itch) for ringworm affecting the groin region

These are the places where ringworms affect and so you need to check them regularly to ensure that you little one is not suffering in silence.

How Does Ringworm Present?

No one is immune to ringworms but children are more predisposed because of the nature of their play as well as interaction with other children and pets. However, how will you tell that your child is infected with ringworms? Here the symptoms based on the most common areas involved.

  • Tinea Capitis: Common in late childhood and adolescence, Tinea Capitis presents with patchy scaling on the scalp which may or may not be rounded or ring-like and associated with bald spots.
  • Tinea Corporis: This is where the classic form of ringworm can be appreciated. Ringworm produces rounds spots, the size of a dime or quarter, with a flat center and an active hyperemic outer border from which the ringworm propagates. These round spots may coalesce with others within its vicinity to form large irregular ringworm lesions.
  • Tinea Pedis: This will present with scaling and inflammation of the toe webs particularly that between the fourth and the fifth toes. It may also cause scaling and/or thickening of the skin of the heels and the soles. In addition, it will not be strange to see blisters between the toes or even on the sole.

Is Ringworm Treatable?

Once infected, ringworm in children is one of the most difficult infections to eliminate. This because you cannot control who and where your child plays at all times. The key is to try as much as possible to prevent him or her catching the infection in the first place. This is what you can do.

  • Ensure he or she has footwear whenever he or she is at the pool, public restrooms as well as locker rooms.
  • Make sure your child does not share personal items such as hair comb, hairbrushes, clothing, towels and such like items at school or daycare center.
  • Examine your pets to ensure they are free of ringworm infestation and insolate and treat infected ones before they can transmit the infection to your child.
  • Make sure you maintain high levels of hygiene in the house at all times.

If you want to know more information about ringworm treatment in children, you can see the ringworm treatment for kids in the older post.

Creams for Ringworm: Over the Counter Treatments

Ringworm, a type of fungal infection involving the skin of various parts of the body, the nails, the scalp, the hands, the toes as well as groin can always be treated if recognized early and treatment initiated. There are a variety of over the counter treatments, collectively known as antifungal agents (gels, creams, ointments and pastes among other formulations). A typical ringworm treatment cream has a variety of chemical components that inhibit the growth of these fungi or kill the fungal cells altogether.

It is important to understand that not all types of ringworm will respond to a particular ringworm treatment cream. This is because the fungal organisms causing infections in different parts of the may differ and the kind of tissue on which the medications are applied have different characteristics. The following discussion of the active components of the creams will give you an idea when it comes to the best ringworm treatment cream to choose for your ringworm infection.

What Does Ringworm Really Look Like?

It is important to know exactly how ringworm manifests because complete and successful treatment depends on early recognition and medical intervention. Ringworm lesions on the skin, nails and scalp all look different and distinction is much easier with advanced lesions. However, early lesions tend to be amorphous, indistinct and typical and so identification may not be so easy. Here is how to identify various ringworm lesions in different parts of the body.

Ringworm of the Body (Tinea Corporis)

ringworm of the skin

When this fungal infection affects the skin of the body, it at times has a very distinctive appearance from which the name came. Skin ringworm produces ring-like lesion with itchy, raised, red, scaly patches, which may form blisters and ooze.

The patches have a unique appearance depicting sharply defined edges with redder margins surrounding apparently normal skin in the center. This creates the appearance of a ring. However, this is not the case at all times. These lesions may expand and coalesce with nearby lesions with distorted shape and extensive discoloration.

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