Culture Ringworm Infections Faster, Save Lives

black kitten in towel
Little Johnny

This must be the year for ringworm to show up among rescued kittens. In all the years I’ve been fostering, since the mid 1980s, I never once had a cat or kitten with ringworm, and between last year and this among the rescues I work with there have been six litters of kittens diagnosed with ringworm, which is highly contagious on contact, requires total isolation, constant treatment with dips and creams for weeks, and several tests in which you need to wait weeks to see if a ringworm culture develops, or not.

The kittens apparently don't mind the strange looking human.
The kittens apparently don’t mind the strange looking human.

Ringworm is not a worm at all but a fungal infection which is contagious even without seeing symptoms by dropping spores on anything that touches it, from bedding, toys, carpet and even food to other cats to you—ringworm isn’t particular where it grows and humans can get it from an infected cat, as well as a cat getting it from an infected human. Kittens, elderly cats and those with a compromised immune system are the most susceptible, and it can move through a shelter environment like a wave if no one knows its present.

This is ringworm finally healing over.
This is ringworm finally healing over.

It can be as subtle as a thin patch of fur with crusty skin or shorter hairs that look as if they are growing in, usually on the head, ears, tail or other extremities. Treatment may only involve a topical cream, but a more serious infection requires lime sulfur dips as well as topical cream and even sometimes medication, which means a lot of handling of the cat or cats, which also means that a full cover up is necessary, not just latex gloves by plastic gowns, shoe coverings, masks and hair bonnets to protect one’s own self as well as any other pets with whom one may come in contact.

Margo in her space suit.
Margo in her space suit.

Ringworm is currently diagnosed by a culture of infected hairs and skin scrapings and observing for growth of fungal colonies. If ringworm is confirmed, the animal then “needs two negative cultures to confirm a cure. Even if the first culture is negative, the cat needs to be held back from adoption for 2 or 3 weeks while waiting for the result,” according to this study to research to diagnose ringworm in cats faster.

Tarra's ringworm culture--if ringworm is present it will turn red.
Tarra’s ringworm culture–if ringworm is present it will turn red.

It is an expense and a time-consuming inconvenience to foster homes and to shelters, and for that reason, if a triage of adoptability is made, ringworm kittens usually lose.

This study recognizes all the work as well as the critical timing of finding results to shelters and foster homes who don’t have the space for a cat who isn’t adoptable.

“IDEXX Laboratories® has recently developed a rapid test for ringworm that identifies ringworm DNA in hair samples and skin scrapings. The PCR test results are available within 3 business days thus cats could potentially be confirmed ringworm-free, or cured, a full 11-18 days sooner'” the study goes on to say. “The goal of this study is to compare the IDEXX Laboratories® PCR test with fungal culture in an animal shelter, to see if the PCR test could replace fungal culture for early diagnosis of ringworm and for showing that the animal has been cured after treatment. This could save the lives of many shelter cats.”

Help fund this study

Winn Feline health studies are usually fully funded when they appear, but in this case Winn is seeking donations of $250 and up to sponsor specific projects from the 2015 Winn grant review. Sponsors will receive progress reports as they are available and copies of any publications that result from the project that are provided by the investigators. Your help in sponsoring these projects means Winn can fund even more research next year.

One project will help cats through research validating testing to diagnose ringworm in cats quicker. Sponsorship is easy!

Ringworm may not seem as serious as cancer or heart disease or many other conditions a cat may develop in its life, but apparently Winn Feline and the feline health community think it is because they’ve also launched other studies of ringworm in cats and in the environment:

Terbinafine for Feline Ringworm

Ringworm in a Cat Shelter

Eliminating ringworm spores from the home

About health studies for cats and Winn Feline Foundation

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) states that in the United States there are millions more owned cats than owned dogs, yet cats visit veterinarians less frequently than dogs. Studies have shown that older cats visit the veterinarian less often than younger cats and that owners of indoor cats are less likely to place a priority on veterinary care than owners of outdoor cats.

The Winn Feline Foundation is a non profit organization established in 1968 that supports studies to improve cat health, funding over $4 million in health research for cats at more than 30 partner institutions world wide through the support of dedicated donors and partners. Winn-funded research has led to improvements in cat food, the science behind most vaccines your cat receives, and progress in the fight against FIV, leukemia, diabetes, FIP, heart disease and a host of other illnesses in cats.

Resources for you and your veterinarian

Winn supplies cat health information from experts, including the results of grants for feline health research. While your own veterinarian is always your best source for information on your own cat’s health issues, Winn has a library of comprehensive articles written by veterinarians and researchers.

The Winn Feline Foundation has been instrumental in many of the advances in feline medicine and surgery in recent decades. Veterinarians benefit from the improved diagnostic methods and treatments for feline diseases that result from Winn-funded research.

Veterinary Honor Roll

Winn offers a special donation to honor veterinarians who have provided outstanding health care to their feline patients. The Veterinary Honor Roll offers a unique opportunity to both honor your veterinarian and give a gift that will resonate for years to come. For a minimum donation of $100 your honored veterinarian will be acknowledged on the website and receives a letter of notification and a framed certificate* suitable for proud display in the veterinary hospital.

The Ricky Fund for Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

In June 2002, the Winn Feline Foundation announced the creation of The Ricky Fund, set up to accept donations specifically for feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) research. Steve Dale, nationally syndicated pet columnist and radio show host, worked with Winn to create this fund in memory of his Devon Rex cat, Ricky.

The Bria Fund for Feline Infectious Peritonitis

In November 2005, the Winn Feline Foundation announced the creation of the Bria Fund to accept donations for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) research. FIP is a fatal disease primarily seen in young kittens, with no cure and no effective treatment.

Visit the Winn Feline Foundation website to read more about these programs and other work from Winn.

. . . . . . .

AT THE TOP: Little Johnny was one of a litter of five stray/feral kittens who were diagnosed with ringworm after they’d been rescued but weren’t quite socialized. Johnny’s rescuer, Margo, didn’t even know Johnny was there until after she’d trapped their mother and all the siblings, He was always a little weaker than the others, had ringworm far worse than the others, and it turned out he likely also had FIP. He is a kitten we won’t soon forget.

Thanks to rescuers Debby, Margo and Tarra for going the full run with fostering litters of kittens who were diagnosed with ringworm.


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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, The Creative Cat offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats. From catchy and creative headlines to factual articles and fictional stories, The Creative Cat provides constant entertainment and important information to people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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