The cat has reddened skin and is scratching – could it have a fungus on the skin? Many pet owners fear this diagnosis because Skin fungus is a zoonosis, so it is contagious. But don’t panic: We give tips about skin fungus in cats.

What causes skin fungus in cats?

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The most common skin fungus in our velvet paws is called “Microsporum canis”. “Canis” stands for “dog”. Unfortunately, this fungus, or to be more precise, its dermatophytes, feels at least as good in cats.

Dermatophytes are tiny spores that grow and thrive on the top layer of skin. They create space for this: they dissolve the superficial layers in order to nestle.

This works all the better if the cat’s immune system is weakened. This is often the case with sick and old cats. Or in young animals that do not have a trained immune system.

Skin fungus often spreads where many cats live together.

Here the spores not only spread well but also meet cats that have a higher level of stress. Stress, in turn, weakens the immune system. Parasite infestation also increases the risk of skin fungus.

That is why animal shelters, boarding houses, or breeding facilities are popular with dermatophytes. Some cats, such as Persian cats, are more prone to skin fungus than others.

Symptoms: recognize skin fungus in cats

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The symptoms of skin fungus can be very diverse. However, there are typical warning signs that occur primarily on the head and legs:

  • dull fur and hair breakage in isolated places, some with a red border
  • bald spots
  • circular, reddened skin with scales
  • inflammation of the claws
  • itching

The symptoms can appear individually or together. Some cats show hardly any symptoms despite having skin fungus. This can be tricky in weakened animals as the disease can even spread to the organs. Asymptomatic animals can also infect other cats or humans.

Fungal skin in cats: Contagious to humans

As a zoonosis, skin fungus can be transmitted to humans. It can lead to head fungus including hair loss or skin fungus with scaly, circular, and itchy areas. Stroking infected animals can be enough to get infected. However, a lot also depends on the immune system and infection pressure in humans.

Wash your hands thoroughly after each contact with the affected cat. Animals with skin fungus should not be allowed to sleep in their bipeds. Particular caution is advised if there are small children in the household. In herds with several animals, experts recommend quarantine for sick animals.

Healthy dogs or cats are not necessarily infected – but parallel treatment is usually recommended. Discuss possible examinations and treatments for your second cat or dog with your veterinarian and adhere to the hygiene measures mentioned. How to lower the infection pressure.

Contagion can lead to a ping-pong effect between humans and cats. This can prevent successful therapy.

Skin fungus diagnosis at the veterinarian’s

If you suspect skin fungus, you and your four-legged friend should go to the vet as soon as possible. Because only then can you start the right therapy. A diagnosis, at first sight, is not possible. Because mites, for example, can trigger similar symptoms, but these are often easier to treat.

In order to clearly identify a skin fungus, the veterinarian supports the diagnosis with a Wood lamp. This emits ultraviolet radiation and thereby causes certain dermatophytes to fluoresce. However, this does not work for around half of the dermatophytes.

The vet can therefore identify other pathogens with a microscopic examination of the hair. If you want to be on the safe side, have a mushroom culture put on a painless skin scrap. This enables a more precise determination of the respective fungus, but requires patience: It can take several days or weeks for an exact diagnosis to be made.

If there is justified suspicion of fungus, the vet will therefore prescribe antimycotics, i.e. drugs against fungi.

Treating fungal skin in cats

If your cat has skin fungus, you need patience for treatment. Because this takes at least two months. Often the skin fungus is based on another disease that weakens the immune system. That is why every affected cat should be thoroughly examined – for example via an additional complete blood count. If there is an illness, it must be treated in parallel.

The fungus is treated internally with tablets containing the active ingredient itraconazole and externally at the same time. When fighting skin fungus externally, distribute antifungal agents in the form of shampoo or tinctures on the skin. Depending on the infestation, it is necessary to treat the whole body with it at least twice a week.

Especially with semi-long-haired and long-haired cats, it makes sense to shear the cat at least partially. Because warmth and moisture favor skin fungus. If “more air” comes in, it becomes uncomfortable for dermatophytes.

A skin fungus treatment is considered successful if this is confirmed by two laboratory tests four weeks apart. Treatment of the environment is critical to success.

Hygiene measures for cat skin fungus

Cleaning the apartment is more time-consuming than treating animals. Because the fungal spores spread around the area and wait here for their use – and that for up to 18 months! Good hygiene practices for the surrounding area include:

  • daily washing of used cat blankets at 60 degrees;
  • alternatively: put fungicidal disinfectants for laundry in the machine;
  • Wipe surfaces with a fungicidal solution – for example, 0.2% enilconazole or chlorine bleach (diluted 1:10 with water);
  • Use steam jets that reach at least 43 degrees on the surface to be treated.

Some experts advise throwing away anything that cannot be disinfected. However, in many cases, it is sufficient to strengthen the cat’s immune system and reduce the burden of infection. Discuss the risk of reinfection with your veterinarian.

How can I prevent skin fungal infections in cats?

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The best protection against skin fungus is health and good care. With long- and semi-long-haired cats, make sure that there is no matting. Because the warm, humid climate under felt sheets creates ideal conditions for skin fungi.

If your cat suffers from constant stress, investigate the causes. Long-term stress increases the risk of skin fungus.

Particular caution is required with immunocompromised animals that suffer from FIP or FIV, for example. Maintain good hygiene. Vaccination can provide additional protection for these animals – especially if they live with many other cats.

What does the vaccination against skin fungus bring?

A vaccination against skin fungus does not reliably protect against disease. However, a much higher amount of dermatophytosis is necessary to trigger skin fungus in a vaccinated animal. If a vaccinated cat falls ill with skin fungus, the infestation is less pronounced.

Whether a vaccination makes sense depends on the living conditions and the constitution of the cat. The attending veterinarian can best judge this. In addition, the vaccination of an infected cat can effectively support the therapy.

The skin fungus vaccination takes place on two dates with an interval of two weeks. After the second vaccination, sick animals usually recover faster. Overall, the skin fungus vaccination offers additional protection for a maximum of one year.