Good Rx asks Dr. Frione: What Is Ringworm in Cats, and How Do You Treat It?

Good Rx

Good Rx Reporter Paige Cerulli reached out to Lakeside Animal Hospital’s Dr. Frione for answers about ringworm in cats and treatments. Read more to find out what Dr. Frione advised for pet owners concerned about their furry friends and the risk of ringworm.

How do you know if your cat has ringworm?

Dr. Jennifer Frione, a veterinarian and owner of Lakeside Animal Hospital in Plantation, Florida, says ringworm can cause many symptoms. She says you might see the following signs of the infection on your cat:

  • Areas of hair loss or broken hair
  • Redness
  • Scaling
  • Crusts

Just like the name describes, a ringworm rash often looks like a ring. Ringworm typically appears on a cat’s face, tail, ear tips, and feet. The infection can include small, solid bumps or large bumps with open sores.

Ringworm symptoms can vary in cats, too. A rash might have an irregular shape. Your cat’s claws might have a whitish color, and their claws might also shred easily.

Dr. Frione also notes that some cats may have ringworm but won’t show any symptoms.

How is ringworm diagnosed in cats?

If you think your cat has ringworm, it’s important to take them to the vet. Dr. Frione recommends that you keep your cat isolated until the appointment. When you put your cat into the carrier to go to the vet, wear gloves or wrap your cat in a towel.

Your vet can perform multiple tests to confirm your cat has ringworm. Dr. Frione often uses a skin culture and a test called a PCR test. The PCR test helps identify the specific fungus that caused the ringworm infection.

Dr. Frione explains that a vet might also use a Wood’s lamp to tell which hairs and areas are affected by ringworm. This handheld lamp uses ultraviolet light to examine your cat’s fur and skin. Affected hairs will glow under the light, and your vet might take a swab sample from those areas.

Once your vet knows which fungus is causing your cat’s ringworm, they will recommend a treatment.

Ringworm treatment for cats

Ringworm is an uncomfortable infection, but there are several different treatments and medications available for cats. Your vet will recommend the best option for the specific fungus causing your cat’s ringworm.

Dr. Frione recommends both topical and systemic antifungals to treat the infection. You apply a topical medication directly onto your cat’s skin affected by the ringworm infection. A systemic antifungal is a medication that is given orally.

The most common oral medication your vet might recommend for cats is itraconazole. The most common topical medication your vet might suggest is miconazole.

If your cat is prescribed a topical medication, do not allow your cat to lick the cream off as that can cause them to become sick. Keep your cat distracted and apply the medication during feeding time or when playing. Give them treats to prevent them from grooming and licking off the medication.

Your vet may also prescribe antifungal shampoos, creams, and dips. Many cats will need a dip or bath using a prescribed antifungal shampoo twice a week. These treatments help disinfect your cat’s fur.

How to keep ringworm from spreading

Because ringworm can easily spread, it’s important to keep infected cats away from others. Dr. Frione recommends that you keep your cat in a small room that’s easy to clean until their infection has cleared. Try to avoid rooms with carpeting.

You’ll also want to take other steps to help prevent ringworm from spreading to you or other pets in the house. You should:

  • Wear gloves while handling a cat who has ringworm.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after you’ve handled a cat with ringworm.
  • Vacuum your home to remove fur and skin flakes, which could spread ringworm.
  • Remove cat hair from your furniture, bedding, and clothing.
  • Thoroughly disinfect surfaces where your cat sleeps or hangs out, including their pet carrier.

You can dilute a quarter cup of chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. This creates a disinfectant you can use on surfaces. Strong detergents are ideal for washing bedding, towels, and clothing items.

If you have a weak immune system, avoid handling your cat with ringworm if possible. Frequent hand washing can also help to keep you from getting ringworm.

The bottom line

Ringworm is a skin infection in cats that can easily spread to humans and pets. Your vet will help diagnose your cat and find the right treatment. Treatments typically include topical and oral medications and antifungal shampoos. While you’re treating a cat with ringworm, make sure to keep them isolated to avoid spreading the infection. Clean and wash areas where your cat spends time and wash your hands thoroughly after handling a cat with ringworm.

Read the full article on Lakeside’s website here. Read it on the Good Rx website here. For more information on ringworm and your pet, contact us.