Avery Humane Society Battles Ringworm, Three Cats Diagnosed, 10 Showing Signs

Published Friday, October 2, 2015 at 9:11 am

The Avery County Humane Society is asking for the public’s help and understanding while the Shelter staff members work to manage an outbreak of ringworm among its cat population.

To date, three cats have been diagnosed positively with ringworm. Ten more are showing symptoms. Another 17 cats have experienced potential exposure. All affected cats have been quarantined in a separate area of the building, well removed from all other animals.

Avery County Humane SocietyAlthough the name is misleading, ringworm is not a worm or any other parasite. It is a fungal infection of the skin, nails, and hair. It affects cats more often than dogs, and can be spread easily to other cats, dogs, and humans. Ringworm is not life-threatening, but is challenging to treat in animals, especially in a multi-animal facility such as a shelter.

Ringworm is not easy to identify in its early stages and can be difficult to diagnose. Some cats can carry the infection and not show symptoms. The first cat to be infected at the Avery Shelter initially received a negative diagnosis when alert staff members sent the cat for testing. After the negative diagnosis, the cat was eventually returned to one of the Shelter’s cat colonies, which could be why the outbreak has affected about 30 cats. As soon as a second cat showed symptoms and tested positive, the Humane Society jumped into action.

The administration, the staff members, and the board have spent many hours consulting with local veterinarians, other shelters that have dealt with ringworm outbreaks, and other sources regarding treatment options.

Treatment can be difficult as the fungus doesn’t always respond quickly or easily to treatment and may take from a few weeks to several months. Treatment is expensive. Cats have to be treated for several weeks and then must have two consecutive negative test results in order to be cleared. Treatment can be stressful on the animals, and Shelter staff will be closely monitoring each cat individually.

Treatment is two-fold. Twice a week the quarantined cats will be dipped, and oral medication will be administered daily for at least three weeks or longer if necessary. The dip is not very expensive. However, the medication is another matter. While there is a cheaper oral medication available, after much debate, the staff and the board decided to opt for the best available medication, which will work more quickly and be more effective.

Shelter Manager Charlene Calhoun said, “We are all here to help save animals’ lives. Even though this process will be hard on the cats and staff, we are committed to providing the best possible care for these cats and assuring the health of our hard-working staff.”

In addition to providing treatment, Shelter staff members are taking great pains to keep not only the quarantine area meticulously clean but also the entire facility.

Executive Director Susan Harris said, “We are facing a huge challenge and we need the public’s help. We chose to use a more expensive medication because of the possibility of a shorter recovery time. The cost of the medicine for one cat for 30 days is $170, so we would be thankful if people would consider sponsoring the treatment for at least one cat. We also need more volunteers to work with the non-quarantined animals so our staff members can spend more time with the affected cats. And if you have ever wanted to adopt a cat, now is a really good time to help us adopt the healthy animals into loving homes.”

Based on recommendations and experience of other shelters, the Avery Shelter is not taking any new cats and will not be able to do so until the ringworm problem is cleared up. Adoptions of the non-quarantined cats are still taking place. The dog population is not affected and intake and adoptions are continuing as usual.

Can you help financially or volunteer? Please call the Shelter at (828) 733-2333 or come by at 279 New Vale Road in Newland behind Ingles.

Coincidentally, the Humane Society has just launched its 3rd annual ‘Catoberfest.’ Name your own price ($5 minimum) for cats 6 months and older, and half price for kittens under 6 months old. The special pricing applies to all cats that have not been affected by the outbreak. Want to see our cats? Go to the Shelter Web site at www.averyhumane.org and check out the cats. Many of the pictured cats are not in quarantine and are immediately available for adoption.

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