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What is the best ringworm treatment for cats? Read this pet parent guide!

Ginger cat

Ringworm is a fungal infection which affects a cat's skin.

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Ringworm is a fungal infection affecting the skin of both cats and dogs. It’s highly infectious and can even spread to humans. Read on to find out more.

By Dr Holly Graham BVMedSci BVMBVS MRCVS

Updated on the 01/03/2021, 15:59

Ringworm is an infection occasionally seen in cats. Unlike the name suggests, it doesn’t involve any worms! Ringworm can be difficult to treat successfully, and often requires veterinary medication and deep cleaning - and it might mean checking yourself out for any lesions too!

In this pet parent guide, you will learn about the best ringworm treatment for cats and how best to prevent this disease.

What is ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungal infection that closely resembles athletes foot in humans. Ringworm is a fungus that affects the top layers of the skin, and can appear in patches or affect large areas of the body. This condition can be itchy and irritating, and requires treatment promptly.

What does it look like?

Not all cases of ringworm look the same - some cats may have tiny areas affected, whilst others can have larger areas of hairloss and irritation. Hairloss usually affects the head, ears or legs - and circular patches of alopecia and crusting are often indicative of a ringworm infection. These areas might be red and sore, or could be bald and crusty. Ringworm infects the hair shafts and makes growing hairs more fragile, resulting in these areas of hair loss and shorter, stumpier hairs. It can be more difficult to detect these patches on your long haired cat, so regular grooming and health checks are important in picking up any problems. 

Causes of ringworm in cats

Ringworm is caused by a fungus. This dermatophyte is often microsporum canis, which infects the top layers of the skin - or the keratin layer. The infection is spread from cat to cat, or cat to human, and is easily spread by direct contact. Cats rubbing against each other can spread this between themselves, but spores in the environment can also cause an infection. Good hygiene in the house is vital in controlling the spread of this fungus. Speak to your vet about the most appropriate treatment for you and your pets.

Diagnosing ringworm in cats

Vets usually perform a few different tests to aid their diagnosis of ringworm:

  1. Wood's Lamp –  this ultraviolet light may cause the fungus to glow a green colour. This is a simple and non-invasive test to perform, but it is also unfortunately not very reliable.
  2. Microscopy - vets look for the fungal spores under a microscope by sticking clear tape to the lesion and applying a purple stain to the cells.
  3. Culture – This is one of the most accurate ways to diagnose ringworm. Your vet will need to take samples from the lesion, both skin and hair and send these to the lab. The lab can grow the dermatophytes on a special medium, but it can take a little while to get a result.

Ringworm can look like lots of other skin problems, so should always be checked over by your vet.

What is the best ringworm treatment for cats?

If you want to know how to treat ringworm in cats, you need to ask your vet! Once diagnosed, you should begin training right away. Anti-fungal medications are often prescribed, but these may be topical or oral medications. Anti-fungal shampoos and tablet are usually used in combination to clear the infection - but environmental hygiene is seriously important. These spores can remain in the environment for up to 2 years! A deep clean is essential in controlling this fungus.

How can you prevent ringworms in cats?

Ringworm is highly contagious, and spreads easily between cats. Good hygiene is important in preventing outbreaks in your home. Washing hands, bedding and brushes minimises the chances of spread - and monitor if your cat is interacting with other animals outside of the home.
Never try to manage ringworm yourself, speak to your vet as soon as you can. And speak to your doctor if you notice any odd rashes on yourself, humans aren’t immune to this either!