Ringworm in Cats: When Are They Cured?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, talks about cat ringworm and how to know when your cat's ringworm treatment is successful.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Q: We recently took our new 5-month-old Ragdoll kitten to the vet and found out she had ringworm within 12 hours of acquiring her. The ringworm covers several large areas of her body.

She has not had the run of the house just yet; she's been confined to one small bathroom for 24 hours. I had duct-taped off the vent and did not allow anyone but my husband and myself into the bathroom. I bought a suit and booties and gloves for touching her. I have bleached the whole bathroom several times now, top to bottom.  

My cat is now outside in a hutch (heated) until we figure out what to do with this situation. My question is this: If after treating her with itraconazole and 8 to12 weeks of lime sulfur dipping and two or three negative fungal cultures, can she still carry and shed the ringworm into the environment? Our vet said she could still be a carrier for life and if we introduced kittens to our home, a new kitten could get the ringworm.

Can we keep her outside in a heated environment where everything can be destroyed after this is all done rather than keeping her inside in a closed room?  

A: You're treating your cat as if she has the Ebola virus. Ringworm is a nuisance, but it's not the end of the world. Ragdolls are longhaired cats, and having them shaved prior to starting the anti-fungal baths might help the condition resolve more quickly.
Several drugs are effective against ringworm; itraconazole is a very good one. If, after several weeks of oral itraconazole and anti-fungal medicated baths, your cat tests negative on three consecutive cultures, your cat is generally considered to be cured. Isolating her in one room is helpful in containing the spread, but I think keeping her outdoors in a heated enclosure is a bit extreme.

Cats can sometimes be “inapparent carriers”, i.e. they can have ringworm spores on their hair coat, but not have any outward signs of ringworm.  These cats can be a source of infection for other cats in the environment. Cats can become reinfected from hairs that may have fallen into the environment, or from another cat who may have an apparent (or inapparent) infection, but they do not remain “carriers for life” once the infection is successfully treated.  

If you do want to get another kitten later on, do not get one from this same breeder, as it's clear that she has ringworm in her cattery. (I hope she's taking some responsibility for your current situation; it's obvious that your cat arrived already infected.)
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Ringworm in Cats: When Are They Cured?

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Sally    International

7/29/2014 8:38:28 PM

I have a Himalayan I have been treating her for a few months now and the fungal test STILL comes back positive from Cornell Univ. In Jan 2014, She DID have two visible lesions after going to a cat show. I have had to cage her (large cage in front of a sunny window in the kitchen) so she will not have any physical contact with our other Persians. She has been on Itraconazole since end of Jan. and then on the 'pulse' treatment (one wk on/one wk off) for the past 6 weeks. She was clipped down initially, and her skin is now pristine clear for the last month - and yet, the test keeps coming back positive. She also gets bathed weekly in Malaseb followed by a leave-on rinse of Imaverol. Now, I have to add...that since she was in contact with my other cats before we realized she had rw, that we are now treating every cat in the house as if they were positive (and...two are) until we get back results on them all. Ringworm can be exhausting with all the bathing, meds and vacuuming and mental anguish...but people should NOT destroy their pets over it. In multiple cats like we have though, the key is preventing physical contact ...not solitary confinement because physical contact among the cats is going to be the main way it spreads. So take care to keep your hands washed and the environment vacuumed etc. Be dedicated to the elimination of it. Here is MY concern: my vet says she will always be a carrier but from this article I get the impression that she CAN be cured. We just cannot afford to have her re-infect the rest of the cats - and she is just a young super friendly kitty that deserves to be able to romp and play. I am even nervous about placing her in a single-pet, no kids home...is it possible that she will NEVER have a negative test? I would like to think this treatment will pay off eventually. All of our other cultures are coming back negative...except hers. :-(

Marlene Lake    Sourthaven, MS

7/8/2014 7:35:34 PM

I understand her concern & anyone who has become infected would too. I found a kitten a month ago & 13 days after I had 17 ringworms. The kitten doesn't have any lesions, the vet used the black light nothing. My vet is adamant that I didn't get it from the kitten but hasn't offered me any options to test him if he's a carrier. If I can't find out answers I can't keep him. I have 2 other cats (16 & 3). Along with my husband & son (who are just breaking out now), 2 friends, 1 severe, all have ringworms after coming to my house playing with the kitten. I have Clorox everything I can, washed fabric, Lysol & vacuumed.

Tricia    Phoenix, AZ

7/2/2014 11:42:05 AM

How do you treat a kitten that shows no signs of ringworm? My momma cat has 2 spots 1 on her ear and another above her eye, so far no signs on the kittens however my daughter got a ringworm and has only been exposed to the kittens I fear the kittens are carriers will the sulfer dip for 2 weeks take care of it?? I am treating mom with cream and dips too as well as keeping them isolated and disinfecting the house.

Sandy    Laurels, IL

5/8/2012 10:33:31 AM

This poor kitty. I do hope her human mum will not give up on her either.

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