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Ringworm

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21-Jun-2009 03:34 p.m.

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Ringworm is not a ‘worm’ as the name suggests but a parasitic fungal infection caused by the fungi microsporum and trichophyton. The scientific name is dermatophytosis.

The disease may be contracted by direct or indirect contact. Infected cats or cats who are show no symptoms but are carriers will pass on the infection. Ringworm is spread by spores so mere proximity to these cats is enough to pass on the infection.

Indirect contact with contaminated material is sufficient to cause the disease. This could be bedding, grooming implements or clothes worn by a staff member who has handled an infected cat, their equipment or has contracted ringworm in his/her own home. The spores can survive for long periods of time – i.e. up to and even over a year.

The symptoms may be either, rapidly growing circular scaly patches of hair loss or, generalised scurfy dermatitis with thinning of the hair. The head, legs and back of the paws are commonly infected and large areas of the back and trunk. Diagnosis may be made by a vet by observation, use of a “Wood’s Lamp” or taking a skin or hair sample for culture. However, as soon as ringworm is suspected in a pet shop environment, precautions need to be taken and treatment started.

Prescribed medication may be systemic which will involve tablets or liquid to be taken internally. Topical therapy will involve the whole body of the kitten rather than local application of creams to the obviously affected areas. This would involve using a medicated shampoo or dip. The kitten, particularly if it is long-haired may need to be clipped to ensure maximum penetration of the treatment. Clipping may need to be done under sedation. It may take up to 6 weeks for the kitten to be clear of infection even though obvious symptoms may have disappeared much earlier than that. It is important that the kitten should be socialised, during this time by its ‘carer’.

Ringworm is zoonotic. It can easily be spread to people and children are particularly susceptible. It is, therefore, vital that isolation procedures are strictly followed to protect others from infection.

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