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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.

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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

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Ask a Vet

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Hummus

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Cat

dog-age-icon

2 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

Red Scabs, Dandruff

One of my cats has been diagnosed with ringworm. As he has a skin disease (non infectious) normally when I first noticed the dry scaly skin I did not take him to the vet as that's quite normal on him. I took him for diagnosis after a while as I thought it didn't look normal and he had hair plucks and skin scrapes done. Whilst waiting for the results the vet gave me a antifungal treatment to smear on him. That was 2 weeks ago and the scales have gone and his skin has healed. The vets rang me today to say he has tested positive for ringworm and now I need to do this very elongated treatment that will cost the ends of the earth as well as being 're tested at the end of the treatment. Neither me, my housemate or my other cat have shown any symptoms and I slept with the cat for weeks before I even took him into the vets so I'm assuming it's a mild infection! I can't quarantine him to one room as that is cruel as I live in quite a small house as it is. How likely is it that I'll catch it from him? What's the shortest length of time he can be on the medication as I really can't afford to do it for 6 months or more!

Aug. 3, 2018

Hummus' Owner

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0 Recommendations

Some people snuggle with cats with ringworm and have no issues whilst others just pet a cat and get ringworm; however if ringworm has been isolated from Hummus you should treat as per your Veterinarian’s instructions. As for minimum times, we recommend the minimum effective dose for the minimum amount of time for the product to be effective however this is case dependent and may be measured in weeks or months; I wouldn’t recommend giving one or two treatment sand calling it a day, also you need to ensure that your home is cleaned as well since ringworm can live in the environment for long periods of time. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www2.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/ringworm-serious-readily-treatable-affliction www.msdvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/dermatophytosis/ringworm-dermatophytosis-in-dogs-and-cats

Aug. 4, 2018

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Jäger

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short haired

dog-age-icon

5 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

Pale Pink Skin

My kitten was diagnosed with ringworm on the 12th of this month. Hes been on a medicated lotion (prescribed by the vet) for 3 weeks and 2 days now. The lesions are now the same color as the rest of his skin and his hair is growing back. Hes been in quarantine since the 12th. My question is, can he be released from quarantine and onto the rest of the house? We have another kitten but they have had a few interactions and the other kitten has not presented any symptoms of ringworm.

July 29, 2018

Jäger's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Seventeen days is not a long period of time, whilst it may seem that Jager is improving I cannot give you an assurance that the infection is ‘cured’; if you’re wanting to mix him with another kitten I would recommend having him tested for ringworm (Wood’s lamp or culture) to be on the safe side, also remember to treat the environment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 29, 2018

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Sox

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DOMESTIC

dog-age-icon

10 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

Lesions

My cats been prescribed medication for ring worm, I put it in his food but my other cat ate some of it today meaning he didn’t get all medication will this affect all his treatment

June 30, 2018

Sox's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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The cat that ate the medication should not have any significant effects from that one dosage, and as long as you continue Sox's treatment from here on out, that one missed dosage should not affect his treatment.

June 30, 2018

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LOLA

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Persian

dog-age-icon

6 Months

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

Fair severity

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Flaky Ears

LOLA was diagnosed with ringworm. She is on Sporonox for 30 days.She is showing new symptoms, while on her meds. My biggest concern:Can asymptomatic carriers be healed completly,or will they stay carriers for live?

June 17, 2018

LOLA's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Following your earlier question. Around one in five cats are thought to be asymptomatic carriers of ringworm and may be tested quite easily by your Veterinarian; however it is possible to treat asymptomatic carriers by bathing regularly with a medicated shampoo but to ensure if your cat is ringworm free you would need a culture done by your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 18, 2018

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Lola

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Persian

dog-age-icon

6 Months

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

Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Dry And Flaky Ears

We have a kitten,diagnosed with ringworm.I guess her parents were carriers,without any visable symptoms.The breeder claims her cats does not have it. She is on Sporanox treatment for 30 days,we are at day 20. This morning I saw her ears is dry and scaly,like before she got diagnosed. Can she get it while on meds? We do not have a vet near us to do a culture test. All our pets were infected, but on treatment. Can she stay a carrier even after treatment? We disinfect the house, yard and clothing as well as possible. Greetings Marida

June 16, 2018

Lola's Owner


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1 Recommendations

In addition to Sporanox (itraconazole) and environmental cleaning it is also advisable to bathe around twice per week with a medicated shampoo and use a topical antifungal ointment (miconazole) on affected areas as long as she doesn’t lick it off. It is possible that some cats are asymptomatic carriers and this is why it is important to bathe a cat regularly during treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 17, 2018

Thank you so much. My biggest concern is: will she be cured completly after treatment, or stay a carrier for life?

June 17, 2018

Lola's Owner

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Aj and strike

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Mix

dog-age-icon

9 Weeks

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

Mild severity

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Patches

Okay so I have a friend who found kitties at her house and wanted to get rid of them so we adopted 2. We gave them baths and their shots and let them in the house and they have gained weight and were doing wonderful! Then my kids got ringworm. I know kitties are HIGHLY susceptible to this so I researched a TON to see if they got it from Our kitties. So the kitties have some dry, scaly spots but not any hair loss or OBVIOUS signs of ringworm. These lesions could be and I did the blackight test and found tiny traces of the green in different spots. I've been treating the kitties for over a week  with a spray I got from Amazon 2x a day and baths 2-3x a week and I disinfect the bathroom 1x a day. They have been quarantined in a bathroom in my house and I feel just awful for them and their quality of life. I'd love to have just let them run outside but we have other animals that I'm afraid they might spread to. I'm treating my kids and I disinfect my house DAILY to avoid infection again. My question is now what? When can I let these kitties out back in the house? I called the vet and it is so much $$ for a couple of kitties we were trying to give a home to and now I want to help them But the cost is ridiculous. I am Just curious what you'd do with these kitties? I need help or I'm afraid we may have to find a different home for these kitties.

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Kutush

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Mixed breed

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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

Moderate severity

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itching Hair Loss, Inflamed Rednes

My male mixed breed cat was infected with ringworm in 2013. He had hair loss in many places of his body. I thought it ended their and didn't see a vet. Now After 5 years he is having serious itching in his ears, neck, in head area. His ears got rashes, by scratching he made his ears and neck bloody and it got worse. Now seeing vet for 3 months. The vet has injected medicine (Ivermactine group) into my cat twice already. Gave Bicozine and Sinamir syrup for feeding orally and pevisone cream to apply on hairlossed areas. My cat is better than before now but haven't recovered completely yet. (Besides he has 3 very small lumps on his body, I don't know if this is related to ringworm.) My vet told me to take him next week again, and if needed he might have to be injected with Steroid. I live in Bangladesh. We don't have advanced facilities for cats here. Even X-ray machines are rarely found in pet clinics. My question is will my cat recover completely? It it normal that it is taking months to recover? I'm very anxious for my cat thinking if he dies. Please give me some words of hope.

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Lacey

dog-breed-icon

North American Short-Hair Tabby

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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

Mild severity

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Outer Ear Hair Loss
Nothing Else

We have a 2 year old with feline symmetrical alopecia on both ears. It started about 2 months ago. She's an indoor cat for a reaction to fleas, ticks or mites is unlikely. We cleaned the house thoroughly in case of allergies and even switched her food to a new grain-free food to see if her old food was causing it. The hair loss is on 80% of her outer ear flap, no redness, no sores. While she is a bit itchy, nothing unusual for a cat and we don't feel she is manually pulling off her hair from excessive grooming. The hair loss is from whatever she is reacting to. Our vet looked at her ears with a Woods lamp and did an ear-swab for a culture. The culture came back negative. Unfortunately, we did wash her ears the day before our vet visit. Our vet wants to treat for allergies and start with oral steroids. We are hesitant to do that without truly knowing the cause. Our cat did have ringworm at the shelter when we adopted her. They treated her orally and she's been fine since, but may be she's been carrying it since with no symptoms, and having a mild reaction to it now. Two questions: 1. How common is a FALSE negative to an ear swap culture? We washed her outer ears the night before the vet tested her so we are thinking that could have impacted it. By all signs and pictures, the hair loss most resembles alopecia due to ringworms versus anything else. It's winter, so don't think pollen or other environmental allergies. 2. Before we starting with allergy injection, what would you do first to rule out other alopecia causes? Blood screen for hormone imbalance, thyroid, treating for fleas/mites, other? She is otherwise healthy. No other symptoms. Just concerned the outer ear hair loss is symptomatic of something we should treat.

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bebe

dog-breed-icon

American Shorthair

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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

Serious severity

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fur Loss
Fur Loss, Redness, Scaly

hi i have an outdoor cat and he has been diagnosed with ringworm before, he didn't have it for a while until this last summer and he only has it in one spot and it won't go away no matter what ointment/topical spray i try. he is now wearing a cone but he's wearing it the other way around cuz it messes with his senses and makes him even more uncomfty if i put it on the right way and i'm just so frustrated because i've been trying everything to get rid of it and i'm so stressed. i'm thinking of just taking him to the vet? i just don't have the money for it at the moment

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Pearl

dog-breed-icon

Cat

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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

Mild severity

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Scabs
Fur Loss

I adopted my cat from a cat rescue, and a couple weeks later, she developed scabs all over her face. The vet diagnosed with ringworm and provided a wound flush (germistat) and a topical solution (surolan). It has been two months, and while the large scabs and the majority of the infection has cleared and the fur has grown back. However, she is still developing small scabs every week or so. Should I contact my vet?

Ringworm Average Cost

From 348 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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