Ringworm is a fungal infection and is highly contagious to both cats and people. If you detect red lesions (usually but not always in a ring-type pattern), or one or more bald patches on your cat’s skin (sometimes accompanied by scabs or scaling i.e. looks a bit like dandruff but isn't), take your cat to a veterinarian. Even a Wood's Lamp (black light), is not 100% reliable in that ringworm doesn't necessarily fluoresce in a lot of cases. So don't assume all is well if nothing shows up with a Wood's Lamp. To be sure, have your cat's veterinarian take skin scrapings, and perform a culture test to confirm a diagnosis of ringworm.
Long-haired cats especially very young or elderly cats with a weak immune system are particularly vulnerable to ringworm. Diet is the cornerstone of health; raw-fed cats are less prone to catching stuff, and upon exposure have an easier time fighting it off. Please consult our "Keeping-Cats-Well-Fed" section for diet help.
The conventional treatment for ringworm is clipping, whole body dips and antifungal medication given internally. Steroids, which are sometimes prescribed for this condition as well as for allergic dermatitis, should be avoided as they can suppress the immune system. There are far gentler ways to deal with ringworm not to mention that inhibiting the immune system with steroids can foster an environment for the fungus to thrive.
Before starting topical applications for ringworm, first carefully clip the hair over the spots of ringworm so they are exposed to air and light as ringworm thrives in dark damp areas. Dispose of clipped hair carefully. Or better yet, burn it as it can spread the fungus. Clip claws as well collecting them carefully, then dispose of them right away.
Make sure you vacuum the area in which you do the grooming. In addition, wash your cat’s bedding, utensils, floors, tiles, and any areas your cat comes into contact with (such as perches, litter area, & window sills) often with hot water and mild cat-safe soap e.g. Dr. Bronner's Castille unscented, along with a diluted (one part bleach to ten part water) bleach solution.
Diluted Grapefruit Seed Extract works well too, but be careful around areas that can stain. If you have access to large enough amounts of reasonably priced colloidal silver, use it instead of bleach which even diluted can be so hard on a cat's lungs.
One of the most effective yet gentle ways to deal with ringworm is to apply undiluted colloidal silver topically in high concentration e.g. 100ppm, 150ppm or better yet 500 ppm. This will need to be applied at least five to six times a day to the affected areas. In most cases, the ringworm should clear up in just a few days.
This is the brand I used in 100ppm and this one in 500ppm; no commercial interest (NCI) on both just as with any other products I mention on the site.
Other than this, I don't know of any reputable brands that do not contain silver proteins. I used these higher ppms to great effect on rescue cats in my pre-Web days.
For the record, I'm not one of those people who thinks colloidal silver cures everything under the sun. At the same time, I am unwilling to pooh pooh something that used judiciously can be very beneficial. YMMV.
You can certainly try a lower (10-30ppm) version e.g. Source Naturals, which is what I currently use; can't say it will get the job done for a severe case though.
You can use any combination of these Western and Indian/Ayurvedic herbs (can get locally at Indian shops or bulk section of Whole Foods/health food store):
Dry (Powders )
- Turmeric powder (note: this will stain the skin, but will not harm it; over time, the color will fade) - Starwest Organic is a good choice as opposed to stuff in your kitchen cabinet, which unless you are a curry freak like me might have oxidized.
- Holy basil (a.k.a. Tulsi). I grow tulsi at home and use crushed tulsi leaves on skin problems but can use either powder or capsules e.g Banyan Botanicals for the former, and Planetary Herbals for the latter. (Note: despite a lot of PubMed-surfing, I have not been able to figure out exactly how much if any eugenol and other essential oils are left in a brew of tulsi tea, so this is something you will have to decide on your own in regard to safety)
- Neem Leaf Powder: I have used both Frontier & Starwest powder as they are good quality are very economical. If you have capsules without any additives, you can use the powder inside the capsules.
- Goldenseal Root
- Soft edible fat - preferably animal-derived e.g. ghee, or unsalted butter.
- George's aloe vera juice (George's removes the laxative part of the plant).
Lily of the Desert pure aloe vera juice (there is only 1 safe product in this line so check labels assiduosly)
- Herbal extract or tincture - not essential oil (which will burn the skin); good brands include Herb Pharm and Herbalist & Alchemist; even safer is to use glycerine tinctures.
- Colloidal Silver, which has been shown to possess anti-fungal effects.
- Strong tea brewed from above-mentioned herbs (2 tsp dried herb to 1 cup of just-boiled water; steep for 20-30 minutes)
Use any combination of the herbs, and make a paste with ghee, butter,or pure coconut oil or with aloe vera juice or herbal extract or strong herbal teas. It ain't rocket science - if the paste is too thick, add more liquid and/or fat, and if too runny, add more powder.
Dab on lesions/spots and leave on. Neem is bitter and so are both the Western herbs so doubtful that they'll lick much off. And if they do, everything is edible, so as long as we're not talking insane quantities...
Non-herbal alternative home remedy
If availability is an issue, you could try cooking oatmeal and applying it on the spots, then covering your cat’s body with a T-shirt. This is soothing to the skin but will not really treat the problem. To get rid of the ringworm, colloidal silver and/or herbs such as Neem are usually required. These two work as well if not better than harsh (to cats) conventional treatments.
There are several studies showing how excellent Neem is as a fungicide, some even talk specifically about ringworm. Here's an example; for details be sure to check Page 5 where they talk about using dried neem leaf extract:
Kaushik Biswas, Ishita Chattopadhyay, Ranajit K Banerjee, Uday Bandopadhyay, "Biological activities and medicinal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica)", Curr Sci, 2002, vol. 82, no11, pp. 1336-1345
Daily, and strictly short-term with the exception of fish oil which can be continued at a reduced rate:
- Vit B-complex: 1/12 capsule - Thorne B-Complex #12 (these capsules are teeny, so don't sweat it if you find it hard to measure out such a small amount of these water-soluble B vitamins)
- Vitamin E 100 IU: GNC Natural E 400 100% natural D-alpha capsules (note: no other GNC E is soy-free, just this one) OR Dr. Ron's Unique E OR Carlson Laboratories d-alpha Gems OR Natural Factors Clear Base E
- Cod Liver Oil softgel e.g. NOW or Carlson's unflavored - 1/3 softgel providing approx 700IU Vit A and 80-100IU of Vit D
- Zinc: 4-5 mg
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Carlson's or Nordic Naturals fish oil - 1-2 1,000mg softgels a day
Krill oil: NOW - 1 softgel; only NOW specifically states it is soy-free; Twinlab, Olympian, and Natures Way don't list soy but leave it at that.
- Borage or Evening Primrose oil both contain GLA which has been shown to great for skin issues - 120mg of GLA (which matches up with 1/2 of the 1,050mg total amount listed on NOW's Borage oil bottle)
- Astragalus (root) - 1/2 - 1 capsule with higher end indicated for more immune-compromised cats
- Pycnogenol or Grape Seed Extract* - 50mg
- Neem Leaf - 1/2 capsule 2x a day
- Holy Basil Leaf - 1/2 capsule 2x a day (strictly short-term because we just don't know at this time about its safety; even safer, skip it and just use externally for at most a fortnight)
*No info on cats. Closest I could find is this book - Botanical Medicines by McKenna DJ, Jones K, Hughes K. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press 2002 pp. 923-986, listing a study on Grapeseed Extract which found "no toxic effects at 60mg/kg/day for 12 months in dogs"
Caution: Grape Seed Extract can have an anticoagulant effect, so should be avoided prior to surgery (which a cat shouldn't have anyway until s/he's fully recovered from ringworm). Here's an interesting reference for this:
"Inhibition of platelet aggregation and arachidonate metabolism in platelets by procyanidins." Chang WC, Hsu FL. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 1989 38:181-188
If dealing with ferals, clearly pilling and external treatments are a challenge. In cases like that, you can hide any non-homeopathic options in Pill Pockets (yeah I know, ingredients are icky but if it's a choice between it and 0 treatments..?), and give a single customized homeopathic remedy away from food/pills.
There are lots of homeopathic remedies available in tincture form that are very effective against skin afflictions: http://www.homeoint.org/books4/boerirep/index.htm
Homeopathy is gentler than conventional treatments, and ideal for ferals (and all cats really) because remedies do not taste bad, can be given in a dew drops of water/high-fat dairy e.g. cream or half-and-half, there is no re-dosing schedule, etc.
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