Fungal Infections in Cats

Picture of a Persian cat

Like many other species, fungal infections in cats can affect their general health, or that can be limited to specific areas on their skin.

In today’s article, we’re looking at some of the most common fungal conditions that cats can get, some symptoms that should convince you to take your feline friend to the vet, how these infections are treated, and whether or not they can be prevented.

What Are the Most Common Fungal Infections in Cats?

There are many fungi that can cause health problems in this species, such as the following:

  • Cryptococcosis
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Aspergillosis
  • Candidiasis
  • Dermatophytosis (commonly caused by Microsporum canis, also known as ‘ringworm’)

As you can imagine, all of these conditions can have different symptoms, and while many affect the skin of cats, some can become generalized and lead to very complicated clinical signs, including blindness.

What Symptoms Can You Expect?

The symptomatology actually depends on the exact system affected by the fungal infection.

Most affect the epidermis, so cats might experience cysts underneath their skin, hair loss, a brittle coat, and intense grooming. Scratching is somewhat uncommon when it comes to fungal skin infections, which should give you a clue that something is wrong.

Other fungi can cause much more severe clinical signs, such as Aspergillus species, for example.

In this case, the cat almost always develops a respiratory infection, complete with sinusitis, nasal discharge, respiratory distress, and sometimes pneumonia. Facial swelling and seizures as a result of the pet not being able to breathe properly are not uncommon, either.

Candidiasis is somewhat rare and usually affects immunocompromised animals. Most cats develop upper respiratory infections, eye lesions, as well as urinary tract infections (mostly located in their bladder). Skin and oral candidiasis are relatively easy to treat, but generalized forms are more difficult, so the therapy could last for weeks and sometimes even months.

Cryptococcosis is another fungal infection that mostly affects the respiratory tract. The classic symptom of this disease is intense nasal discharge, which quickly goes from a clear one to a bloody or pus-looking thick one.

Blastomycosis causes not just skin lesions but also severe lung infections. It is more prevalent in specific areas across North America, such as Tennessee, Mississippi, or river basins that make the perfect growth environment for this pathogen. This is perhaps one of the most life-threatening fungal infections since it can also affect the central nervous system and cause death.

In general, if you see your cat experiencing any sort of skin lesion, respiratory distress, or significant changes in their litter box use habits, you should take them to the animal hospital as soon as possible. We often don’t realize how sensitive cats can be, and their small bodies are often incapable of handling the abuse of some pathogens.

How Are Fungal Infections Diagnosed and Treated?

When you bring your cat to the vet clinic, the veterinarian will first perform a few basic tests like a complete blood count and blood biochemistry just to assess your pet’s general health status.

Once that’s done, they will proceed to use specific tests depending on your cat’s specific symptoms. A fungal exam is often effective in determining the exact fungus species that has caused the infection.

These samples can be collected from your cat’s skin or her respiratory tract (nasal discharge or cough material). It might take a couple of days for you to receive the result, and during that time, your cat will be put on supportive medication.

If your pet is lucky enough to have developed only a skin infection, you might be able to use topical ointments for treating it. However, if systemic symptoms have appeared, your cat will have to be put on specific anti-fungal medication.

Most of these drugs are effective and do their job in a timely manner. But if your pet has developed complications, which can occur in the form of secondary bacterial infections, for example, they might have to be kept hospitalized for a period of one to two weeks.

There is a risk involved in long-term therapies, and it’s that these medications, as capable as they are of treating the infections, can also produce mild or severe liver or kidney damage. This aspect needs to be assessed depending on your cat’s health status and her age – since seniors usually have a harder time coping with more aggressive medications.

Can You Prevent Fungal Infections in Cats?

Keeping your cat indoors is perhaps the best way of preventing fungal infections in this species.

Even if you ensure this, you might inadvertently bring the pathogen into your home on your shoes or your hands if, for example, you were petting a cat or dog outside and you forgot to wash your hands before handling your pet.

People often ask themselves how it is possible for cats to get ringworm if they are kept indoors only, so the answer to that is that they can be the vectors themselves. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands when you get back home and take your shoes off to limit the spread of any pathogens you might have collected from the outdoors.



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