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posted at 9/14/2010 7:09 PM EDThow do you treat a cat with ringworm & how long is it before this fungus is gone?
posted at 9/16/2010 3:01 PM EDTAnswer by Dr. Mara Ratnofsky of Angell Animal Medical Center's General Medicine Service:
I’m sorry to hear that your cat has ringworm. Treatment can take several months and may require veterinary visits, lime sulfur dips and/or oral medication, quarantining of your pet, skin and fur cultures, and extensive cleaning of your pet’s environment. However, before we discuss treatment details it is important to understand the infection and how it originates.
Despite its name, ringworm (dermatophytosis) does not involve worms; instead it is a fungal infection of the hair, skin, and at times nails. Ringworm is usually detected when owners notice hair loss, broken hairs, and increased pigmentation of the skin as well as red bumps, itching, crusting, scaling, and occasionally pus. Infected nails can become brittle, break, and can even fall off completely.
Ringworm infection can be carried by pets that don’t have any skin lesions, and these pets can serve as a source of infection for others. Pets as well as humans can develop ringworm, especially when harboring open scratches, while experiencing stress, or if the immune system has been weakened.
There are three types of ringworm that most commonly affect cats, and it is important to understand which type has infected your pet. By identifying the type of ringworm you may be able to pinpoint where the infection originated, such as from another pet or a contaminated environment. Ringworm can survive in the environment for up to two years. Your veterinarian can help identify the ringworm type through fungal cultures. The process of growing a fungal culture can take up to 3 or 4 weeks, so it should be started as soon as possible. Once the infection has been identified you will be asked to begin treating your infected pet, most likely with multiple applications of a lime sulfur dip using gauze to apply to the pet’s head to minimize the risk of it getting in the eyes. Your veterinarian may also recommend an oral antifungal medication called Itraconazole. You will need to treat the other pets in the household that carry the infection, and you must clean your environment thoroughly using a mixture of diluted bleach as recommended by your veterinarian.
You will need to monitor your pet’s response to treatment by having fungal cultures performed by your veterinarian every 2-4 weeks. Treatment of your pet and his/her environment must continue until two negative fungal cultures have been obtained, spaced two weeks apart. While your pet may appear better after a few treatments it is important to continue the recommended care to prevent a resurfacing of the ringworm, requiring you to begin the process all over again.
Throughout the process it is important to understand that ringworm is a systemic infection so it requires a full body treatment. If you only treat the area that appears to be infected you will miss the remaining infection on the rest of your cat’s body.
Before beginning treatment, be sure to have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian who can supply you with information regarding treatment specific to your cat and to your cat’s environment.
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posted at 9/17/2010 2:02 PM EDTI have been there — with four cats — and survived!Pay attention to the vet's important advice that this is a systemic infection that needs to be treated both with dips and oral meds, and with lots of housecleaning.Most cats with ringworm are infected by the microsporum canis fungus. If yours is, ask your vet to check out generic Lamisil pills. It's affordable, effective and requires a shorter dosing time than itraconozole. You can start culturing after 2 weeks.You can't clean everything in your house with a 10-percent bleach solution — unless you live in a kennel. Why do so many vets think we do? So since you can't KILL the spores with bleach, you need to do the next best thing. Vacuum them up, and throw them out. Think of spores as dust mites, or some other allergen, and you'll see what I mean. To catch the spores, you need a high-quality vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and a self-sealing bag. I used a Miele. I vacuumed the living daylights out of everything in the house (after removing carpets for professional cleaning and keeping them stored until we were clear) every day for a few months. I took down our curtains and laundered them many times, using our condensation dryer, which gets very hot. I covered furniture after vacuuming the upholstery and washed the covers every few days. I vacuumed the fabric underneath the sofa and chairs, where my kittens liked to hide.Forget the standard advice about using a cheap, disposable vac and throwing out the bag every day. All you'd be doing is sucking the spores into the vac and blowing them out the unfiltered exhaust. It makes no sense to do this.I couldn't quarantine our affected cats and it doesn't always make sense to do it even if you can. It's probably too late by the time you see symptoms — it's an airborne virus, so it's already everywhere in the house.I bought HealthGuard Laundry Additive from an online company called Revival Animal. It contains Triclosan, an iffy, potentially carcinogenic substance (which is in many soaps and even toothpaste, too!), but it is shown to kill ringworm spores. I used it in the laundry and used the correct, dilute solution for misting surfaces and wiping down everything in the house with a microfiber rag that I then rinsed and microwaved. I used a dry Swiffer to wipe down walls and ceilings, windows, and so on. It got to the point where I freaked out when I saw a piece of fur on the floor — with four longhaired cats! (And believe me, I hate cleaning and was nearly ankle-deep in furry tumbleweeds in normal times.)Boy, those months were fun. The dipping is the worst part; we found a groomer to do it and are forever grateful to her. Having cats that reek of gunpowder took getting used to. But we never caught ringworm ourselves and our cats are clear and healthy now. Good luck! You will get through it!