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Skin Fungal Infections in Cats: Types, Symptoms & Treatment Options

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If your cat is experiencing symptoms that are negatively impacting their skin, it is reasonable to feel alarmed. As conscious and caring pet parents, it is perfectly natural that we would experience some amount of concern at discovering any kind of issue with our beloved pets. This concern is amplified when you discover something as jarring as skin lesions or other possible symptoms of a fungal skin infection.

It is important that both you and your cat keep calm while figuring out your next steps.

What Are the Different Kinds of Fungal Infections in Cats?

Just like there are a wide variety of different fungi in the world, there are an equally wide variety of possible fungal infections that your cat could come down with.

Here are just a few of the more common types of fungal infections cats experience:

Ringworm

Also called “feline dermatophytosis,” ringworm is a fairly common fungal infection in cats. When looking for clues on what may be ailing your cat, consider the “ring” part of the name.

This is because animals (and people) dealing with this type of infection may display a ring-like rash. That being said, ringworm does not always manifest this way. So even if your cat does not have ring-shaped rashes, it is still possible that they could be dealing with ringworm. Take caution as ringworm can cross the species barrier, from your cat to other pets in the house and even to humans.

Ringworm is one of the most common skin issues that cats face. When it is found, it will generally be treated with a mixture of medications.

The most common method is to apply topical ointment or cream on all of your cat’s skin where rashes are present. A topical treatment may be the only form of treatment chosen in minor cases; it may include ointment or shampoo. 

However, this is not the only avenue to treat skin fungal infections in cats. The selected treatment is based on several factors, including whether the infection is localized or generalized.

In more serious or generalized cases, topical treatment is usually combined with oral medication. Cats can also be asymptomatic carriers of ringworm, meaning they may have no lesions on their skin but could still be contagious to other pets or people. So, testing and follow-up is critical to ensuring the infection is completely resolved.

Along with a ring-shaped rash, common symptoms of ringworm in cats include hair loss, scaly skin, swollen or inflamed skin, over-grooming as well as over-scratching, and infected claws.

Yeast Infections

It is possible for a fungal yeast infection to affect a cat’s respiratory system as well. But, the vast majority of the time, you will see the bulk of the symptoms revolving around the skin.

A cat can get a fungal yeast infection in multiple ways, including breathing the fungus in through the nose, absorbing it through the skin, eating it with their food, or drinking it. A yeast infection may also simply be an overgrowth of the natural fungi in and around your cat.

If your cat already has a compromised immune system, it is especially likely that they could experience an overgrowth.

Some of the kinds of yeast infections that can affect cats include Candidiasis, Malassezia dermatitis, and Blastomycosis. When dealing with a yeast infection, a cat can exhibit a number of possible symptoms. Greasy and scaly skin, thinning of the fur or hair, redness, and skin thickening are all possible signs to look out for.

Sporotrichosis

Sporotrichosis is caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii entering the system. This fungus can be found most often in wood, soil, and plants.

At first, Sporotrichosis will manifest itself on a cat as skin wounds located on the face and surrounding regions. However, if it is given time, it can continue to spread further to cause lesions on other areas of a cat’s body.

There are three different types of sporotrichosis that a cat can experience. The first is lymphocutaneous, the second is cutaneous, and the third is disseminated. Lymphocutaneous is typically characterized by firm bumps under the skin measuring between one and three centimeters. This is the most common form of the sporotrichosis infection. 

Second, we have the cutaneous form. With cutaneous sporotrichosis, a cat is likely to experience swollen lymph nodes along with lesions and wounds along the skin that will probably remain in one localized area.

Thankfully, the last kind of sporotrichosis, disseminated, is quite rare. As long as the infection is treated earlier on in its progression, this very dangerous form can be avoided. Note that if it is left unchecked, this type can prove fatal to both cats and humans alike.

Cryptococcosis

Although the nasal form of this fungus is the most common, it is still possible for cats to experience this infection in the skin as well.

Cryptococcosis has four total possible ways that it can manifest. It affects the nasal passage, the nervous system, the skin, or it could be systemic. The nasal form is the most common as this fungus typically gets into your cat’s body by being inhaled through the nose.

Cryptococcosis is the most common form of fungal infection in cats, and the fungus can be found in rotting vegetation and bird feces. If a cat’s skin is affected by this fungus, then you are likely to find bumps below their skin. Typically, these bumps will not be painful or itchy to your cat, so they will not be uncomfortable. 

You may also find some enlargement of your cat’s lymph nodes. This is common in any kind of infection, as swollen lymph nodes are a sign that the body is currently fighting off some kind of intruder. Swollen lymph nodes mean that the body is working as it should, but they can be a cause for alarm if you do not know why they are enlarged in the first place.

Blastomycosis

Blastomycosis is typically caused by contact with wet soil or dirt near a water source. The organism Blastomyces dermatitidis usually enters the body through inhalation, but it can also enter the body through an open wound. This kind of fungal infection manifests in multiple symptoms that vary greatly in severity, but it can also cause skin lesions. 

What Are the Common Symptoms of Fungal Infections in Cats?

The exact symptoms that your cat may exhibit after presenting with a fungal skin infection can depend on the specific type of infection that they have. They may show common signs of stress.

Other than that, you can expect some of the most common symptoms to include:

  • Hair loss
  • Rashes
  • Skin thickening
  • Bumps under the skin
  • Lesions
  • Discharge
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Itchiness (shown by your cat scratching themselves more than usual)

What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Cat May Have a Fungal Skin Infection?

If you are beginning to suspect the possibility of your cat having a fungal skin infection, then you should make note of why you are considering this.

What are the symptoms they are exhibiting? Are they grooming or scratching more than usual? Are you seeing patches where there is less hair or fur than there used to be on your cat’s body? All of this information is helpful when determining what could be wrong.

Then, you should consult with a vet regarding your cat’s condition. A visit to the vet will allow you to start ruling out certain possibilities regarding your cat’s illness. Your vet will eventually discover the root cause of the issue. They can perform different diagnostic tests as necessary. 

For the inevitable questions that come up when determining the status of your cat’s condition, you can rely on the KONG Club App to connect you with the elite vets at AskVet. 

AskVet knows that concerns will arise outside of just standard operating business hours, so they have licensed veterinarians standing by to help out at any hour of the day or night, seven days a week. 

They can offer you personalized plans of care to help your cat get back to feeling their very best. In addition, AskVet and the KONG Club provide an online community of like-minded pet parents who can share the tips and tricks that they have learned about pet ownership.

How Are Fungal Infections Treated in Cats?

A cat’s fungal infection is likely to be dealt with using either a topical treatment, a medication that is taken orally, or with some mix of the two. Listen to your vet and stick to their advice when it comes to caring for your cat with a fungal infection.

Are Fungal Infections in Cats Contagious?

Fungal infections in cats can be contagious to other cats, other animals, and humans. That is why it is so important to get your cat to the vet as soon as you suspect that something may be amiss.

What Is the Outlook for a Cat With a Fungal Infection?

Exactly how your cat will fare as a result of their fungal skin infection will depend largely on a variety of factors. For one, you and your vet must consider your cat’s age. Then, you must consider their health in relation to their age. Lastly, of course, you and your cat’s vet must consider the type of fungus and what its long-term effects might be.

That being said, early detection and consistent trips to the vet are integral to keeping your cat as healthy as possible. If everything else in your cat’s body is working well, then they will be better equipped to fight off the infection and return to perfect health. Also, by catching the infection before it has progressed too far, treatments will have much more of an opportunity to help.

Putting the Fun in Fungus

If you suspect that your cat may be dealing with a skin infection, it can be a very scary time for both you and your pet. However, getting them to the vet as quickly as possible can prevent poor outcomes, help your cat feel more comfortable, and make sure that the infection does not spread to anyone else.

 

Sources:

Cryptococcosis | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Blastomycosis | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Ringworm: A Serious but Readily Treatable Affliction | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Ringworm | Healthy Pets, Healthy People | CDC

Sporotrichosis in cats: ABCD guidelines on prevention and management | NCBI

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