Q: We recently adopted a four-month-old kitten from a shelter and found out a couple of weeks later that he had ringworm when he lost hair in a couple of spots over his body. We have been treating the spots with a topical solution, but it doesn’t seem to be helping as he has two more spots of hair loss that have occurred in the last week. We are starting to get frustrated and are wondering what other steps can we take besides the applying the topical?

A: Ringworm in cats can be a very frustrating disease to treat. As you probably already know, it is a skin fungus that can spread very easily between animals and also to people. The fungus attacks the hair follicles, which causes them to fall out into the environment. This is how other animals and people come into contact with it, even if you haven’t directly touched the affected cat.

What you are dealing with now is more of a systemic form of ringworm, meaning that it is all over the body, at least at the skin and hair level. If you just keep treating individual spots it is kind of like playing Whack-a-Mole and you will never get ahead of it. I would recommend getting an antifungal shampoo and bathing him in it at least twice per week. This will help with getting rid of loose and dead hairs and definitely keep the level of fungus in the environment to a lower level. Then I would start him on a systemic antifungal. There are both pill and liquid forms available, so you could use whichever form is easier for you to administer. This may need to be given for several months as you normally treat for a short time, then take some time off, and then treat again. You have to go through several of these cycles to make sure that the fungus is completely killed off.

Lastly, make sure that your home is thoroughly cleaned as he can get re-infected from a contaminated environment such as bedding, carpeting, soft toys, etc. During the time of treatment ,it is best to have him isolated to one part of the house for his own safety and the safety of others. The only thing worse than treating your cat for ringworm is having to treat your entire family.

Got a pet-related question? Send it to Dr. Anderson, a veterinarian at Hawthorne Park Animal Care Center in Bloomington, via email at features@pantagraph.com.

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