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Is Your FIV Cat Protected from Ringworm?

Whether you’re an experienced cat owner or a new pet parent, you’ve probably heard about ringworm. Perhaps, you’ve even fallen victim to it at one point. We get it. Having itchy, irritated skin isn’t fun for anyone—even for our feline friends. However, although any cat can contract the infection, FIV cats are three times more likely to do so. Yes, most of them are capable of living long, complication-free lives, but given their weakened immune state, it’s important to make sure that all preventative measures are put in place. FIV cats are prone to recurrent infections and for them, seemingly harmless health concerns may have severe consequences. If you’re interested in learning more about ringworm and how you can prevent your FIV cat from picking it up, read on!


What’s Ringworm?

When first see the word ringworm, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s probably a worm of some sort, right? Nope! Ringworm is actually a term used to describe a skin infection caused by a fungus. In cats, 98% of ringworm infections are caused by the fungus Microsporum canis. In some cases, it’s caused by another fungus called Trichophyton mentagrophytes—what a mouthful!

Going back to the topic at hand, ringworm doesn’t only affect the skin, but also the hair and nails. It considered to be a zoonotic infection, meaning it can spread from human to animal and vice versa.


How Does Ringworm Spread?

Ringworm is mainly transmitted through direct contact with the fungus, which can happen in several ways. Your FIV cat can pick up it up if they touch, groom, or play with an infected pet, or come into contact with contaminated surfaces (rugs, floors, carpets), objects (toys, food bowls, litter box, crates), and equipment (brushes, nail trimmers).

Since fungi reproduce through microscopic eggs called fungal spores, they can easily spread through the environment and lay dormant in an infected pet’s belongings or living space for up to 18 months! However, not all cats become infected. Some can carry the fungus without showing signs of infection, simply serving as a means for it to contaminate other locations.


What Does Ringworm Look Like?

Visible signs of ringworm infection may take seven to 21 days to appear. Since cats have lots of fur, it may be difficult to know whether or not your FIV cat is infected, especially in milder cases. You may need to feel around for any bumps or uneven sections of skin during inspection. However, ringworm usually causes bald patches in affected areas. This is because it feeds on keratin, which is found in the skin, hair, and nails. At the depths of their coat—usually along the head, neck, forelegs, and back—infected cats develop dry, thickened, dandruff-like skin lesions with scaly, slightly raised circular edges that resemble a “cigarette ash”.


How Do Veterinarians Know It’s Ringworm?

Since the majority of ringworm infections in cats is caused by the fungus Microspora canis, which usually glows yellow-green under ultraviolet light, your veterinarian may start by examining your FIV cat’s skin and coat in a dark room. However, it’s possible for the test to come out as a false negative, so there may be a need for additional diagnostic tools.

The most accurate way of diagnosing a ringworm infection is by culturing the fungus. To do this, your veterinarian will need to take hair and skin samples from your cat. Depending on how fast the fungus grows, the test results may come out anywhere from a few days to a month.


How Is Ringworm Treated?

In most cats, ringworm infection typically resolves on its own within three to five months, but treatment is necessary to prevent the fungus from spreading to others. For FIV cats, veterinary care and anti fungal medications are very important since their immune system needs the support to effectively clear out the infection. Normally, ringworm treatment involves a combination of topical (ointments, creams, shampoos) and oral anti fungal medications.

Once your veterinarian has prescribed the needed medications, you’ll receive instructions on proper administration and dosing frequency. Topical antifungals in the form of ointments and creams are applied directly onto the skin lesions. You may need to do this for several weeks to months, depending on when the infection gets better. For oral treatment, your veterinarian may prescribe the antifungal griseofulvin, itraconazole or terbinafine, which you’ll have to give your cat for a duration of two months or more.

Make sure to follow the treatment regimen given by your veterinarian and never discontinue applying or administering any of the prescribed medications unless your veterinarian says so. Stopping the treatment will cause the infection to return.


How Can Ringworm Be Prevented?

To protect your FIV cat from ringworm, make sure that they don’t venture out into damp areas outdoors, especially places where there’s plenty of soil, like backyards and gardens. Fungus like to hang out in warm, moist environments, and stick to animals and humans, spreading from one location to another. Minimizing your FIV cat’s exposure to the outside environment greatly reduces their chances of contracting ringworm. In fact, it’s better for them to be indoor-only felines. For more reasons why that is, check out this article here!

Indoors, make sure to regularly clean and disinfect your FIV cat’s living space and belongings, including their toys, blankets, bedding, and bowls. If you have multiple pets and one of them contracts ringworm, isolate the infected pet in an easy-to-clean room until they’re ringworm-free. Always use a vacuum cleaner when cleaning the contaminated area to remove dead skin cells and stray hairs without causing them to scatter. Never use nail clippers, brushes, and other tools that have come into contact with an infected pet on your FIV cat and other furry family members. Additionally, when you brush an infected pet, don’t forget to remove all the hairs, put them in a plastic bag, and dispose of them right away.


Have you ever had a pet that contracted ringworm? How did you deal with the infection?