Wanna hear a spooky story? My kittens have… ringwooooorm! Noooooo! The horrooooorrr! Hi guys. [laughing] Ooh, that’s creepy. Okay, but in all seriousness, ringworm sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. HANNAH: She’s got ringworm. ANDREW: Gross. HANNAH: She’s glowing! [makes club music beat sound effects] [Andrew joins in] [Andrew singing, Hannah laughing] HANNAH (singing): It’s a ringworm paaaarty! [laughs] HANNAH: Sorry! [still laughing, Andrew keeps singing] It is a ringworm party. Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin, and it’s a totally treatable condition. So that’s not scary at all. What is scary, however, is the fact that ringworm can be a death sentence for kittens in shelters because they need extra support while they’re going through treatment. Because of the extra support they need, they typically rely on the availability of a foster home in order to survive. And a lot of people are very scared to foster ringworm kittens. That means they can be euthanized for a condition that’s totally treatable. So in this video, we’re going to break down what ringworm is and talk about how to stop it in its tracks. Maybe we need a kitten. You wanna be in the video? You have ringworm on your head? Poor Will. You look like a grandpa and you’re only a month old. How’s that work? I wanna start by saying if you learn how to care for ringworm kittens and you volunteer as a ringworm foster parent, your skills are going to be absolutely life-saving for little guys like Will. Shelters desperately need people who are willing to foster ringworm kittens. So if that’s you, you are a superhero! if you haven’t fostered a kitten with ringworm before, watch this video and consider giving it a try! I wish I could kiss you, but I can’t! I can’t! Okay. So what is ringworm? Despite its name, ringworm is not a worm at all. Ringworm is a fungal infection that affects the skin, fur, and claws. This fungus is contagious to humans, cats, dogs, and other animals. When an animal has ringworm, it’s common to see a round ring of red, patchy skin. Sometimes the skin will appear flaky, sometimes the skin may appear thickened, and other times, the kitten may have fur loss resulting in bald patches. This is because the fungi eat the keratin that’s present in skin and fur, causing ringworm lesions. How do kittens get ringworm? Ringworm is contagious via direct contact with fungal spores, which are microscopic and can live in your environment on items like blankets and bowls, or can travel from the infected animal to another animal. Kittens are especially susceptible to ringworm in a high-volume environment like a cat colony or an animal shelter. If exposed to ringworm, it can take several days or even weeks for signs of the disease to occur. Once the fungus is in the environment it can linger there for months, continuing to infect others who come into contact with it. While humans can get ringworm, healthy adults are typically resistant to infection. Young children, seniors, and people who are immunocompromised are more likely to get ringworm when working with cats who have it. In humans, it’s most commonly spread by kids in settings like elementary schools or daycares. I’m happy to say that having worked with a lot of ringworm kittens myself, I’ve never personally had it. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, so always be cautious. It’s important to know that when working with ringworm kittens, sanitation is key to protecting both yourself and the kitten from further outbreak. How will you know if a kitten has ringworm? If you can see any signs of hair loss or skin irritation, it’s good to talk to a vet to rule out this funky fungus. With my kittens, it started with just a few patches of skin that looked a little bit dry. So I thought maybe they were just a little bit dirty. But as they started to lose their hair and look like a bunch of grandpas, I knew something was wrong and that I needed to test them for ringworm. If you suspect that a kitten has ringworm, the very best thing to do is go to a veterinarian. A vet can do a skin scrape and culture it to confirm presence of the fungus. In some cases, these confirmatory tests can take a long time, so it’s often good to go ahead and get started with your treatment if the vet does suspect ringworm. The other common method for diagnosing ringworm is a black light or a woods lamp. Certain strands of ringworm will glow under a black light, so when you shine it on them, you may see that their patchy parts look bright purple. Just be careful using this method because not all strands of ringworm will glow, and there are things that will glow that are not ringworm, like certain fibers, or food residue, or my hair… My eyes. My teeth. Fungus mooouth! That better not be ringworm in there. Okay, but seriously, once you know your kittens have ringworm, it’s time to take action immediately to stop it from spreading. In general, ringworm treatment is going to have four components. 1: Quarantine and sanitizing. 2: Medicated dip or bath. 3: Topical ointments. And 4: Oral medication. So let’s start with quarantine and sanitation. When you have ringworm kittens, you want to protect your environment, your stuff, and yourself. You’ll want to put the kittens in a contained space that you can sanitize daily. My kittens are in a small pen with blankets, bedding, toys, and a litter box, all of which needs to either be able to be totally disinfected or thrown away after each use. All kennels, cages, food dishes, and other items need to be sanitized frequently. Wash all bedding in the washing machine using bleach to kill the spores. Be very mindful not to let the exposed items touch other things in your home, like your furniture or your personal laundry. At least once daily, you want to completely refresh all of your blankets and bedding and spray down the space using a disinfectant. Just wash it using your disinfectant and then it’s safe to use again. What kind of disinfectant should you use? In general, people will use one of two things. Either they’ll use bleach at a ratio of 1 to 32 diluted with water, or they’ll use rescue disinfectant which is what I use in my home. When working in the space with kittens, you’ll want to wear gloves. This is going to protect you from making skin contact with the fungus, and it’s going to minimize the risk of you spreading the spores to other items in your home. Put on your gloves when you begin working with the kittens and take them off as soon as you’re done, being mindful not to wear them when you’re touching other items like your phone or your doorknob. If you do touch those items, just sanitize them after. You can also wear special socks or booties while you’re in their space and take them off after you leave if you’re concerned about getting spores on your feet. If you want to be extra careful, you might consider designating a special, extra-big t-shirt to wear as a smock when you’re working with them. If you have long hair, make sure you tie it up so it doesn’t touch them. I know it’s tempting that you want to touch and kiss your kittens, but trust me. When they’re living in the fungal jungle, sanitation comes first. So limit your direct contact with them to the best of your ability. I’ll blow you a kiss, Catalina. [blows kiss] Did you catch it? You did? [small squeak] Okay! Next let’s talk about baths and dips. Twice a week, you’re going to bathe or dip your kitten in a medicated bath. There are several different kinds, but first, I’ll talk about the most commonly used method for working with ringworm kittens, which is lime sulfur dip. Lime sulfur dip is an anti microbial concentrate that kills fungi. It has a pungent smell like rotten eggs so it’s kind of gross to work with, but it’s very effective and it’s affordable. You’ll follow the instructions on the bottle to dilute the concentrate and then you’ll dip the kittens into the solution, carefully coating their body. Use a washcloth or a cotton pad to carefully apply the dip to the face avoiding the eyes. Once the kitten is dipped in the lime sulfur, that’s it. Don’t rinse them, just let them dry completely. The sulfur smell will dissipate as it dries, and that dip will get to work on killing all the spores. Now I use a different medicated bath that contains the antiseptic chlorhexidine and the antifungal ketoconazole. This shampoo is a prescription strength and you have to get it from a veterinarian. There are other similar shampoos you can get, so talk to your veterinarian about the best shampoo for your kittens. And make sure you’re using something that is specifically created for cats. Using the shampoo method, you’ll wash the kitten with the shampoo thoroughly, being very careful while washing the face using a cloth or cotton pad. Be careful not to get the shampoo into the eyes. Once the kitten is covered in the shampoo, you’ll leave the product on for 5 to 10 minutes, then thoroughly rinse it off of them and get them dry and warm as fast as possible. You should be aware that dips and baths can be very traumatic to kittens because they’re made to be wet for a period of time. So warm up a heat pad ahead of time and make sure that they are kept warm throughout the entire process. Remember that for young kittens, being cold is a big deal. So don’t skip this step. Keep them warm! After I do my shampoo bath, I always dry the kittens immediately and place them on a blanket with a heat pad underneath it. Next, let’s talk about topical treatments. There are many topical antifungal treatments and what’s important is that you’re using one that is effective and safe for cats. The topical medication my kittens are using is called Tresaderm. And it’s a prescription drug that contains an antifungal as well as a broad-spectrum antibiotic that treats inflammation. After the kittens’ bath, I put this on their active lesions. On days that the kittens don’t get their bath, I clean the lesions using a gauze pad soaked in chlorhexidine. This cleans and prepares the area to be treated using the ointment. My kittens get this ointment once a day, but other topical treatments may be used more frequently. Of course, talk to your vet before using any over-the-counter medication on your kittens and make sure it’s safe for them. When in doubt, go the prescription route. Last but not least, let’s talk about oral medications Topical treatments will work from the outside in, but oral medications will work from the inside out. The most common drug used to treat ringworm is called Itrafungol and it’s what I’m using with these little guys. This is a medication you’ll need to get from your vet and you’ll need to dose it to the kitten’s specific weight. When used in conjunction with your topical meds, this is a well-rounded approach that is sure to kick ringworm’s butt! So to recap, my routine is medicated baths two times a week, cleaning it daily, topical treatments once a day, and oral medication once a day. Be aware that recovery from ringworm can take several weeks and you should be treating them throughout the entire duration and even periodically afterwards to make sure that you kicked its butt. Of course, remember to protect yourself and your home environment during that time. Wear your gloves, sanitize your room and your laundry and your supplies, and be extra mindful about cross-contamination while working with the kittens. Once they’re fully recovered, I recommend doing a thorough deep clean before taking on any new kittens. Sanitizing the space completely so you can rest assured that your home is fungus free. So there you have it! I hope I’ve helped to put a little bit of fun in fungus. Was that funny? [crickets chirping] Tough crowd. I find it absolutely tragic that so many little kittens like Tapinga here are killed in shelters just because foster parents are scared to take them on. So if you wanna be a real hero for the kittens in your community, call your local shelter and let them know that you would like to sign up to be a foster for ringworm kittens. You’ll save their lives, you’ll help them feel better, and you’ll give them a chance to get that loving, fungus-free home that they deserve. Thanks for being a part of the solution, and thanks for watching!