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What is Ringworm?

Ringworm is the common name for dermatophytosis, which is a highly contagious fungal infection that affects the skin, usually in close proximity to hair and nails. In many cases, dermatophytosis presents as a red ring-shaped infection on the outer layers of the skin. Ringworm is not life-threatening, but it can be uncomfortable and may be spread to other pets and humans. While cats of all ages can contract a ringworm infection, kittens are the most susceptible.

Ringworm Average Cost

From 348 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Ringworm in Cats

In some cases, ringworm symptoms are easily observed. However, in less obvious cases, ringworm can be more difficult to diagnose in cats, especially long-haired cats. The following symptoms will often cause a veterinarian to suspect ringworm. 

  • Scaling of skin and coat
  • Erythema, an inflamed redness of the skin
  • Round thickened patches of skin
  • Patchy hair loss, often accompanied by “crusty” skin
  • Onychomycosis, an infection of the cat’s claws that causes them to become scaly and rough

It should also be noted that after coming in contact with ringworm fungi, some cats become carriers but never exhibit any outward symptoms. These cats will likely infect other animals and humans if they are not treated.

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Causes of Ringworm in Cats

Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection that settles into the outer layers of the skin, usually near hair and nails. The vast majority of ringworm cases are caused by the spores of the Microsporum canis fungus, but on rare occasions, ringworm has been found to be caused by the spores of three other fungi: Microsporum persicolorTrichophyton mentagrophytes, and Microsporum gypseum Regardless of the particular fungus that has caused the infection, the overall causes are the same.

  • These fungi are highly contagious, spreading either by direct contact between animals, between animals and humans, or through contact with a contaminated object or surface. 
  • Cracked skin is exceptionally vulnerable to ringworm infections, as the spores can settle within the cracks.  
  • Once the skin comes in contact with the fungus, there is typically a seven to fourteen day incubation period before the infection becomes visible on the skin’s surface.
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Diagnosis of Ringworm in Cats

Your veterinarian will begin by conducting a thorough physical examination of your cat, looking for bald spots and inflamed or crusted skin. Your vet may also darken the room and shine a Wood’s lamp, commonly called a black light, over your cat’s skin and fur. In many cases, if the ringworm is the result of the Microsporum canis fungus, the infection will glow under the black light. Not all cases of ringworm, however, will appear under the black light. If the vet finds visual evidence of a ringworm infection, the vet may take cultures of the skin and fur in those areas to be tested for fungal spores. Although some veterinarians may feel confident in diagnosing ringworm based on visual evidence alone, especially in kittens, a culture that tests positive for fungal spores is the only definitive way to diagnose dermatophytosis. If the cat is known to have been in contact with infected animals or humans but does not exhibit any physical evidence of dermatophytosis, the vet may use a brush or comb to gather hair and skin to be tested for fungal spores.

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Treatment of Ringworm in Cats

In most cases, if left untreated, ringworm will eventually resolve itself in 90-150 days. However, ringworm should not be left untreated, the infection can be spread to other animals and humans during that period. After a diagnosis of ringworm, it is likely that your veterinarian will prescribe a three-pronged approach to treatment, which will likely last for several weeks to several months. It is imperative to follow your vet’s instructions for how often and for how long you should treat your cat’s ringworm, as early cessation of treatment will usually result in a recurrence of symptoms. Your vet will likely schedule your cat for follow-up visits so that additional cultures can be collected to measure the progress of treatment toward eliminating the infectious fungi. The three approaches to treatment are:

Topical Treatments 

  • Clotrimazole ointment
  • Miconazole lotion
  • Shampoo containing Ketoconazole 1.0% and Chlorhexidine Gluconate 2.0%
  • Shampoo containing Miconazole Nitrate 2%, Chlorhexidine Gluconate 2%

Oral Medications

  • Griseofulvin
  • Itraconazole
  • Terbinafine

Cleaning and Sterilizing the Cat’s Environment

This is extremely important because Microsporum canis fungi have been found to remain infectious for up to 18 months.

  • Careful disposal of loose fur
  • Frequent mopping and vacuuming 
  • Sterilizing contaminated objects and surfaces with a 1:10 ratio of bleach and water. 
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Recovery of Ringworm in Cats

Treated cats will usually begin to improve within two to four weeks, although for full recovery to take place the treatments must be administered for as long a period as your veterinarian has instructed. After the treatments begin to work, the skin will usually clear up and the hair will often begin to regrow. In environments such as animal shelters, especially kitten rescues, it can be very difficult to completely rid the environment and feline population of fungal spores. In these environments, and with cats that have shown a susceptibility to repeated infection, pet owners and shelter workers will need to be intentional about keeping the environment sterile, washing their hands and clothes often, and routinely checking the cat(s) for signs of ringworm infection. Most treated cats that live in a typical home environment will make a full recovery.

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Ringworm Average Cost

From 348 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Ringworm Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Quinn

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DOMESTIC

dog-age-icon

4 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Hair

My foster cat has ringworm. She just got one negative test back. After she gets two negative in a row they said she will be cured. To I have to worry about her being a “carrier’ of ringworm and getting it back again and again and infecting me and my family? I unfortunately now have it

Sept. 2, 2018

Quinn's Owner

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Trousers

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Cat

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2 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Glowing Green, Round Scab On Ear

My other in law fosters kittens and after some discussion we decided to potentially adopt one of her 8 week old charges. When she arrived for a weekend visit (we're a bit of drive away) as soon as we took the kitten out she pointed to a spot on his ear and said "uh-oh... that looks like ring worm". We took him to our vet the very next morning, keeping him quarantined in a large crate overnight, and he glowed green in several spots. She hadn't noticed it before, and had sent photos just a week earlier with no signs of the same spot, so it was very new (I know it can incubate for 1-2 weeks..). We sent the kitten back with her so that he and the litter can be treated in a sterile environment with oral and topical meds by the shelter she fosters for (they're in an isolation room together). My question is surrounding whether we continue with the adoption... my main concern being that my daughter has type 1 diabetes and while healthy does have a compromised immune system as a result. How likely is it that this kitten will be fully treated and not retract the ringworm a few weeks after we get him back (minimum 4 weeks is what we're being told)? I'm concerned :( He's the sweetest thing, but I can't seem to decide what the best call is for the family. While it's treatable, we have children and a dog that I'd rather not pass this along to if it's something that can easily return despite treatment. Any guidance would be so helpful, I'm struggling with this decision and want to make the best call for all of us.

Aug. 29, 2018

Trousers' Owner

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Mitsy, Buddy and Booboo

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short haired

dog-age-icon

11 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

I'm on day no.17 with an outbreak of ringworm on my wrist. Yes, I'm being treated. I have 2 eleven month old cats and one 21/2 mth baby kitten who show no signs of having ringworm. I spoke to the vet since I've been worried sick about them catching it and I still have no idea how I got it or if one of my cats may be a carrier. The baby kitten sleep with me and the others are in and out of my room. The vet says I shouldn't be too concerned unless they show signs of having it. In the mean time I have been obsessing, cleaning diligently and driving myself crazy. Is it possible that my cats can be infected?

Aug. 16, 2018

Mitsy, Buddy and Booboo's Owner

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2 Recommendations

Cats can be asymptomatic carriers of ringworm, especially long hair breeds; I cannot give you any specific assurance that they are ringworm free, if you’re concerned you could have a toothbrush culture done to see if anything shows up just to put your mind at rest. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 16, 2018

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Smokey

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domestic medium hair

dog-age-icon

10 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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4 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Cough
Dry Skin

My kitten is being treated for ringworm so far for a week she has scabby looking skin now above her eye were the ringworm is does this mean she is getting better is it ok for her to be around my 3 year old cat or do i need to isolate her

Aug. 12, 2018

Smokey's Owner

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4 Recommendations

You should continue to isolate Smokey until you have a resolution of symptoms and preferably once a negative toothbrush culture has come back to be on the safe side; also you should ensure that the environment is cleaned thoroughly and that there are no other issues. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 13, 2018

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Winnie

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dsh

dog-age-icon

10 Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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3 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Considerable Flaking

I have been giving my (shelter) kitten Itraconazole, using an anti fungal ointment, and bathing her with a mix of chlorhexidine shampoo and Nizoral, as suggested by my vet. The leasions are much smaller, but have become very flaky! Is this to be expected?

Aug. 7, 2018

Winnie's Owner

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3 Recommendations

Flaky skin lesions is something that we do see with ringworm, it is important to note that the flaky skin may still occur during treatment; continue to give the treatment as directed by your Veterinarian and monitor for improvement. If there is no improvement or you have any other concerns return to your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 8, 2018

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Lucifer

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Maine Coon

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Fur Loss

I recently adopted a cat and last night I noticed a spot on its foot that looked like a bite or something. Took him to the vet today and turns out it’s ringworm. I’ve never experienced this before so I’m freaking out. I gave the cat a bath with shampoo (which I’ll do every three days) from the vet and also gave him a pill (given every 12 hours for a week) from the vet as well. I cleaned everything with a bleach/water mix, vacuumed (I have carpet in my room), washed and dried all my bedding and his bed. I haven’t noticed anything on my skin (yet). Anyone have any advice? How long does this last? He usually sleeps on my bed at night so can he be on my bed or should I keep him off of it for now? How often do I need to rewash and disinfect everything?

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Two Face

dog-breed-icon

Calico

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Scale Crust
Fur Loss
Paw/Nail Irritation

I have a kitty that adopted us a her family, who was just diagnosed with ring worm. She has scaly ears, she's getting spots on the back of her head, and her paws are bothering her. We have cream to put on her, but when we try she runs and looks at me like I'm the devil coming after her soul. She will hide until she thinks it's safe. Any suggestions on applying the meds to my kitty without her being terrified of me after? She is also not going to the potty as much as she was before.

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Rainbow Monkey

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Siamese

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

I adopted my Siamese kitten from a rescue agency at our local pet store. She was given all her shots and spayed at the time I picked her up. She also had a small patch of hair loss (the size of a dime) on the back of her neck and there was redness. The adoption agency said she had an allergic reaction to the topical flee medication and not to worry. Well 2 weeks after having her I noticed the spot getting larger so I took her into the vet. They diagnosed it as ringworm and prescribed 5ml of terbinafine 150mg/ml orally once a day and to apply tresaderm drops to the affected area twice a day. For two weeks I was struggling getting her to swallow the entire dose of the terbinafine and it seemed to be getting worse so we went back into the vet. They upped her terbinafine to 6ml’s and I’ve been doing that for about a week now. We went back into the vet and they gave her an antibiotic shot to help boost the recovery process. It will start to look like it’s healing then two days later comes back x2 and more patches seem to be appearing which she is getting do and scratching her skin off creating holes in her neck. It’s been a month now since we’ve started the medication and treatment from the vet but it’s spreading down the sides and back of her neck, I feel so bad for her and I’m doing everything the vet said to do Little success and now it’s quadrupled in size. Since we have already been to the vet three times in one month for this and the vet explained I may have to see a specialist/ dermatologist for her, is this normal of treating ringworm? Any advice is much appreciated!

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Kevin

dog-breed-icon

Shorthair

dog-age-icon

3 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Rapidly Progressing Ringworm

I received both of my cats from the humanitarian society — the first kitten I got, named Kevin, was three months old and had no problems. He was perfectly healthy and happy. Around a month later, I brought in Gretchen, and the problem began. At first, I believed the patches of hair loss were mange, which upset me greatly. Upon visiting the vet, we discovered that it was ringworm, abd I was quite relieved. We were given a topical medicine to apply twice every seven days for a week, to take a break from for a week, and repeat twice more (or however long it took for the ringworm to clear up). I am now in a state of distress, because my youngest kitten, Kevin, does not seem to be improving. In fact, I have noticed quite a few more spots of hair loss and crusting (which is a yellow color). Two more on his tail, two more on his head, and one near his eye. Gretchen seems fine, but he’s worrying me. I’m very scared that he’s only getting worse, and to top that off, I’ve contracted ringworm as well. Is this normal? Do cats being treated show signs of their ringworm worsening before it gets better, or is his case urgent? We are only nine days into treatment, but it seems to be rapidly progressing.

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Eva

dog-breed-icon

Siamese

dog-age-icon

2 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss
Hairloss
Flakes
Black Spots

Hello, I just got a kitten about 2 months old from a friend who did not take good care of it. After getting it I realised it has black spots on both her arms and above one eye. After taking her to the vet it was diagnosed with ringworm fungal infection. I was told to use the anti fungal shampoo 2 times a week, and then use iodine to clean and scrub the infected area and apply the anti fungal crème, it's been about a week now and I started to see what I could describe as skin flakes, but the kitten isn't getting any better I guess. Is his treatment right? What could I do to get her treated perfectly. PS: be very careful I got spots on my back because of the kitten. This is highly contagious.

Ringworm Average Cost

From 348 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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