Ringworm is a curable fungal skin infection that affects cats in shelters across the country. Many of these shelters do not have the resources to treat these cats, and, sadly, resort to euthanasia. Luckily, the SPCA of Northern Nevada has a lifesaving program for treating pets with ringworm, thanks to funding and training through Maddie’s Pet Project. We were able to treat 91 kittens with ringworm in 2020, who “graduated” from the program and went on to find loving homes!

What is Ringworm?

Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm at all. It is caused by fungi called dermatophytes. It appears as a dry, scaly patch or lesion on animals and as a round lesion on people, which is why it was named ringworm.

Puppies and kittens have a higher risk of contracting ringworm, and pets in shelters are at even higher risk. This is because their immune systems are compromised due to the stress of being in a shelter. Ringworm also spreads quickly when pets are housed in close proximity.

A ringworm infection can start by direct contact with an infected animal or asymptomatic carrier, or by contact with spores in the environment. It is zoonotic, which means it can be spread to other pets and humans. However, living with a pet with ringworm does not guarantee you will contract it. 

Containing Ringworm

Ringworm can live in the environment for up to a year, so it is important to keep it contained and keep the area clean. If your pet develops ringworm, isolate him to one room to prevent spreading throughout your home. Speak with your vet about decontaminating your home and containing the ringworm while treating your pet.

At our adoption center, we keep cats with ringworm in Sammy’s Colony, a room where they are housed in isolation and receive treatment. Team members wear personal protective equipment when going in and out of this room, and decontaminate the area daily.

Identifying and Treating Ringworm

Every pet that enters our facility is tested for ringworm. First, our admissions team uses a Woodslamp, or blacklight, to visually inspect for lesions or spores. Ringworm glows bright green under a blacklight. If ringworm is detected, the clinic team will then confirm using another method, such as a microscopic exam, fungal culture, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, or a biopsy. 

If a kitten tests positive for ringworm, he is moved to Sammy’s Colony for isolation and treatment. Our cat care and clinic teams then treat him with oral medications and a topical lime sulfur spray twice a week to eliminate the fungus. They give him attention and play time throughout the day.

Each week, kittens are tested to determine if they still have ringworm. Once the kitten has tested negative for ringworm two times in a row, he is graduated from the ringworm program and cleared to be adopted into a loving home.On average, cats in our ringworm program spend at least 21 days in treatment. 

Adopting a Ringworm Graduate

Kittens who have been through treatment for ringworm are healthy, loving companions. Because we test thoroughly to be sure our kittens are cured of ringworm, you can be sure that the kitten you adopt will not contaminate your home. Our matchmakers will answer any questions or concerns you have, and you will receive all records of your new pet’s treatment. 


Written by Ana Hurt

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