Can A Cat Survive A Fungal Infection?

What is a fungal infection in cats?

A fungal infection in cats is caused by a fungus that invades the body and begins to grow and multiply. Some common fungal infections in cats include:

  • Ringworm – a highly contagious fungal infection of the skin, hair, and nails
  • Aspergillosis – a fungal infection of the nose, sinuses, or lungs
  • Blastomycosis – a systemic fungal infection that affects multiple organs
  • Cryptococcosis – a fungal infection of the nasal passages and central nervous system

Symptoms of a fungal infection depend on the type and location but can include skin lesions, hair loss, nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, eye inflammation, seizures, and more. Fungal infections in cats are typically contracted through contact with infected soil, spores in the environment, or infected animals.

Cats with weakened immune systems are more susceptible. Kittens and senior cats are at higher risk of developing fungal infections. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are important to control the infection before it spreads throughout the body.


Are fungal infections in cats serious?

Fungal infections in cats can potentially become very serious if left untreated (1). Certain types of fungal infections, especially blastomycosis and histoplasmosis, can spread throughout a cat’s body and cause systemic illness (2). Fungal infections affecting the respiratory tract, skin, or central nervous system tend to be more severe (3).

Risk factors that can make fungal infections worse in cats include (4):

  • Weakened immune system (from FIV, FeLV, diabetes, etc.)
  • Older age
  • Concurrent illnesses
  • Delayed veterinary care
  • High exposure risk (outdoor cats, multi-cat households)

While many mild fungal skin and ear infections are treatable at home, systemic or internal fungal infections require prompt veterinary attention and antifungal medication. With aggressive treatment, the prognosis for systemic fungal infections can be good, but delayed treatment raises mortality risk (5).

Diagnosing fungal infections

To diagnose a fungal infection in cats, vets will first perform a physical examination, looking closely at the skin, ears, and claws for any abnormalities. Skin scrapings may be taken and examined under a microscope for signs of fungal organisms. Skin biopsies can also be useful to identify fungi invading deeper skin structures.

According to Merck Veterinary Manual, examination and biopsy of affected tissue is the main way vets diagnose fungal infections [1]. Blood tests can also help by revealing elevated white blood cell counts if the infection has spread systemically.

As noted by VMSG, common diagnostic tests include:[2]

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Chemical blood profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Skin scrapings/biopsies

Identifying the specific type of fungus involved through these tests allows vets to select the most effective antifungal medication.

Treating fungal infections

Fungal infections in cats are typically treated with antifungal medications. These can be administered orally or topically, depending on the type and location of the infection. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, treatment usually involves one or more antifungal drugs given over an extended period, often for 2 months or longer, until no visible signs of infection remain.

Oral antifungal medications like itraconazole, terbinafine, and fluconazole are commonly prescribed for systemic fungal infections or infections affecting multiple areas of the body. As noted by PetMD, these oral medications can reach tissues beyond the skin to clear fungal infections from the inside out.

For more localized fungal skin infections, topical antifungal creams, ointments, or shampoos may be prescribed. These are applied directly to affected areas on the skin and can help resolve fungal lesions and irritation. However, topicals may not address underlying systemic fungal infections as effectively as oral medications.

Regardless of the type of medication, following the full treatment regimen as prescribed by a veterinarian is important. Stopping treatment too soon could allow residual infection to persist and flair up again. With appropriate antifungal treatment guided by a vet, most cats can recover fully from fungal infections.


Home care for cats with fungal infections

Caring for a cat with a fungal infection at home requires keeping the affected area clean and preventing scratching or irritation. Here are some tips:

Gently clean the infected area daily with a diluted antiseptic solution like chlorhexidine. Avoid scrubbing. Pat dry and apply any prescribed topical medications. Keeping the area clean prevents worsening of infection.

To prevent scratching, your vet may recommend an Elizabethan collar. You can also distract your cat with playtime. Keep nails trimmed to discourage wounding from scratching.

Relieve skin itching or irritation with cool compresses for short periods. Ensure your cat doesn’t lick or chew the infected area.

Separate carrier if the infection is contagious. Disinfect all toys, bowls, and accessories. Vacuum and sanitize household surfaces regularly.

A nutritious diet supports the immune system to help fight infection. Feed meals high in protein and vitamin C.

Monitor your cat’s symptoms and comfort levels. Follow up with the vet as recommended for exams and medication adjustments. With diligent care at home and prescribed medications, fungal infections in cats can fully resolve.

Preventing fungal infections

There are several steps cat owners can take to help prevent fungal infections in their cats:

Grooming and hygiene: Regular grooming can help prevent fungal infections by keeping your cat’s coat clean and free of debris. Be sure to check for any signs of skin irritation during grooming. Keep food and water bowls clean to avoid contamination. Wash bedding frequently.

Reducing exposure: Try to limit your cat’s exposure to possible sources of fungus, like damp areas or soil. Disinfect any grooming tools after each use. Avoid sharing grooming tools between cats.

Boosting immune system: A healthy diet rich in nutrients can help keep your cat’s immune system strong to fight off infections. Consider supplements like probiotics. Reduce stress levels which may weaken immunity.

Checking for early signs of fungal infections and promptly treating any that develop is also crucial for prevention. Regular vet checkups allow early diagnosis and treatment if needed. With proper care and precautions, cat owners can help protect their feline friends against problematic fungal infections.

Can fungal infections be fatal for cats?

Fungal infections are not usually fatal for cats if treated properly and promptly by a veterinarian (Source: Most fungal infections like ringworm are localized to the skin and can be managed with topical antifungal medications. As long as the infection is identified early and treatment started, the prognosis is generally good.

However, there are some exceptions where fungal infections can become serious or even fatal if left untreated. Systemic fungal infections that spread internally through the body, such as blastomycosis or histoplasmosis, can be life-threatening if not treated aggressively (Source: Immune-compromised cats are also at higher risk. In these cases, prescription oral antifungal medications are usually needed.

The key is to have any fungal infection diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. With prompt treatment, even serious fungal infections like blastomycosis can often be survived. But an untreated systemic fungal infection that goes internal can be fatal if it remains unchecked and spreads throughout the body.

Long term outlook

With treatment, the prognosis for fungal infections in cats is often good, especially if caught early before the infection becomes systemic. However, even with treatment, some fungal infections like blastomycosis or cryptococcosis can be challenging to fully eliminate from a cat’s system

Recurrence rates vary depending on the type of fungal infection. Skin infections often clear up completely with proper treatment. However, systemic fungal infections like blastomycosis have recurrence rates around 10-25% even with aggressive treatment. For this reason, cats cured of serious fungal infections often need to be monitored for potential relapse for 6-12 months after treatment is completed.

Ongoing monitoring after treatment involves regular vet checkups to look for potential signs of recurrence like new skin lesions, respiratory issues, or other symptoms. Repeat testing like fungal cultures may be done periodically to check for the presence of fungal organisms. Any symptoms or positive tests would warrant restarting treatment. With attentive monitoring and care, many cats fully recover from fungal infections.

To help prevent recurrence, vets may recommend keeping cats on antifungal medication at a lower dose or giving intermittent “pulse” dosing even after clinical cure. Maintaining a strong immune system through diet, supplements, and limiting stress is also important. With an integrative approach combining conventional and holistic medicine, cats have the best chance at long term freedom from fungal disease.

When to see a vet

If your cat shows any of the following symptoms, you should take them to the emergency vet right away:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe lethargy or weakness
  • Loss of appetite for more than 24 hours
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Bleeding from the nose or other body openings
  • Sudden change in behavior such as irritability or restlessness

These emergency symptoms can indicate a systemic fungal infection that has become severe and requires urgent medical intervention (source). Don’t hesitate to get emergency vet care if you notice any of these signs.

For a suspected fungal infection without emergency symptoms, you should still schedule a veterinary appointment within 24 hours. The vet will run tests to diagnose the type of infection and prescribe appropriate antifungal treatment.

Once treatment begins, follow your vet’s instructions for rechecks and lab work to monitor your cat’s recovery. Fungal infections can take weeks or months to fully resolve. Stick to the treatment and follow up schedule to ensure the infection clears up completely (source).

Key takeaways

Fungal infections can be a serious health threat to cats. While many cases of fungal infections in cats resolve on their own or with treatment at home, some fungal infections can be fatal if left untreated. Prompt diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian improves the chances of recovery and survival.

Cats who have risk factors or weakened immune systems may be more vulnerable to fungal infections. Prevention through good hygiene, nutrition, and reducing exposure to infection sources can help keep cats healthy. Catching fungal infections early and administering any prescribed medications as directed is crucial.

With proper care and veterinary oversight, most cats can recover fully from fungal infections. However, neglecting treatment can allow the infection to advance and become life-threatening. Knowing the signs of fungal infections and getting veterinary help at the first signs can make all the difference in the outcome for a cat.

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