Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: Ringworm

Dear Porky & Buddy,

Help! I had cat that had been hanging around my barn for several weeks and when I couldn’t find an owner, I took pity on her, gave her a name, and let her in the house. It was only then that I noticed that Sheba was missing little patches of fur on odd reddish looking spots on her legs. My neighbor insists that she has ringworm and that all my other pets are going to get it and I should kick her out of the house right now, blah blah blah. I don’t see any worms on her. Should I just kick my neighbor out instead? What should I do?


Dear Sharon,

Do what you want with your neighbor, but get Sheba to your vet right away. Although the name suggests otherwise, ringworm isn’t caused by a worm at all—but a fungus that can infect the skin, hair and nails. It’s not uncommon in cats, and causes patchy, circular areas of hair loss with central red rings. It is, however, highly contagious and often spreads to other pets in the household—and to humans, too.

Because the infection can easily spread to you and other animals in the household, you should immediately quarantine Sheba until a veterinarian can confirm a diagnosis. You should also thoroughly wash your hands after you touch her.

Treatment of ringworm depends on the severity of the infection. A veterinarian may prescribe a shampoo or ointment that contains a special medication to kill the fungus. In some cases, oral medications are necessary. In order to ensure that you’ve eradicated this resistant and hardy fungus, treatment may have to be given for several months or more and fungal cultures rechecked periodically.

If your veterinarian diagnoses Sheba with ringworm, he or she will explain what you must do to prevent the fungus from spreading to your other pets—and to the human members of the household. But keep in mind that if you have other pets, it’s likely that most of them have been exposed as well. Healthy adult pets have a natural resistance to the fungus and they may well be fine, but you should keep an eye on them. Ringworm is not generally life-threatening to an otherwise healthy pet, but it can be a real pain in the you know what.

Your veterinarian may recommend that you do the following:
-Bathe all pets in the household with a medicated rinse or shampoo.
-Wash the infected animals’ bedding and toys with a disinfectant that kills ringworm spores.
– Discard items that are impossible to thoroughly disinfect (carpeted cat trees, etc.)
– Frequently vacuum to rid the house of infected hairs and skin cells. (Yes, the fungus can survive on hair and skin that your cat sheds!)

As you can see, dealing with ringworm is a big nuisance, almost as much as dealing with a nosy neighbor, but at least you will have Sheba to keep you company. And thanks for being so kind to her.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.