Despite the name, Ringworm is not a worm but actually a fungus. Known as Dermatophytosis, it can be spread from cat to cat or even from pet to human. As it is a fungus, it contains spores and these spores can live in the environment for up to 24 months and can live on furniture, bedding, clothing or anything that the infected animal has been in contact with. Individuals with animal jobs should be very careful since it is very easy to bring ringworm home to your family members and pets.
On occasion, ringworm can infect an animalís entire body but most commonly appears as scaly, hairless sores on the ears, tail and or head. These sores can be very itchy and fill with pus, and may cause an increase in shedding. Sometimes ringworm will also cause the nails to grow deformed.
A fungal culture done at your veterinary hospital is the more common way to diagnosis ringworm. The treatment can include an antifungal cream but an oral treatment may have to be used in the more severe cases plus the animal may have to have regular dips. The fungal cultures must be negative for 2 weeks before any treatment is stopped.
Kittens under 12 months old are the most susceptible but also outdoor pets, older pets or animals whose immune system may be compromised. Persian cats also appear to be more susceptible to the ringworm fungus.
Since ringworm is so contagious, it is important to wash your hands and clothes anytime you come in contact with new kittens and or cats as ringworm is the most common skin infection in felines. This is very important if you work with animals as you can pass it on to another pet. If you suspect your pet has ringworm, isolate the pet and call your veterinarian immediately. It is important to wear gloves when you have to handle an infected animal and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. However, not every human or animal that comes into contact with the fungus will become infected. Current immune system, health, age, condition of skin, and grooming habits will determine if the infection is actually able to take a hold and grow.