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Dallas and Texas: Fostering the most vulnerable! (You can too…)

These boys have had a rough start to their short little lives, but Dallas and Texas are two of the happiest foster kittens we have seen in a while. Here is their story so far…

A kind Samaritan found a litter of kittens, alone and vulnerable, outdoors on September 2, 2020. They were only about a day or so old. Unfortunately, their mother was deceased. We don’t know what happened to her, though birth trauma is highly likely.

Taking care of orphaned kittens is typically a lot of work. In the first week of their lives, they require feedings every two hours throughout the day. But this litter was even more demanding than we expected.

When we received the kittens, it was clear they were in bad shape. We didn’t know how long their mother had been deceased, but in the summer heat, it was long enough to start attracting flies. And that had led to maggots which had buried into the kitten’s bodies. Yes—gross, creepy, crawling maggots.

Three kittens were in such horrible shape that they had to be let go. I took the others into my care. Sadly, a few days later the littlest runt (who we were calling Arizona) passed in his sleep. But Dallas and Texas, the last two of the litter, were doing well. They were eating every few hours and growing. They both had some special cleaning needs as a result of the condition they were found in and needed special ointment that was applied twice daily to prevent infection.

Because of the wounds they had, we were unable to bathe the kittens—only cleaning them with wet wipes as needed. I noticed Dallas had a patch of dry skin on his toe, not particularly unusual, but worth keeping an eye on. A few days later it was clear that the boys also had ringworm. (Geez, couldn’t these kittens catch a break!?)

Thankfully, they were still little and kept separate from the other pets in our house. With consultation from our veterinarian, we started them on a treatment plan: bathing and a combination of antifungal shampoos. 

If you have never heard of ringworm, then you should know that it is not actually a worm and really has nothing to do with worms (or maggots). It’s actually an annoying fungus that’s more closely related to athlete’s foot. The proper term is dermatophytosis. (Try saying that three times fast!) 

Clinical signs of ringworm are usually dry, scaly skin lesions and hair loss in animals. It is also zoonotic, which means it is contagious to humans. Yikes!

Here’s the good news: you can easily care for pets with ringworm if you want to. In fact, anyone can! It’s simple!

The one exception is people with compromised immune systems should not be around animals with zoonotic diseases. But otherwise healthy individuals can care for animals with ringworm. 

Depending on the severity of the infection, ringworm is often dealt with in the same way we dealt with it—using an antifungal shampoo. There are also over the counter creams that may help between baths. (Athlete’s foot cream also does the job. Surprise!) 

Here was our protocol:

  • Week 1: Bathe with antifungal shampoos once daily for 4 consecutive days to get the fungus under control. Keep kittens contained in 1 place. Change bedding daily, washing linens twice.
  • Week 2: Bathe twice weekly and repeat bedding washing. Start ‘spot treatment’ with topical antifungal cream on any visible lesions, twice daily. Note that for mild cases, spot treatment may be sufficient. 
  • Week 3: Repeat week 2 protocol.
  • Week 4: Reduce bathing to once weekly or as needed and monitor for lesions. It is very important to keep up with laundry and environmental cleaning. Ringworm is manageable but does require diligence. Wherever the pets are allowed to go in your home will need regular cleaning. 

One very important aspect of fostering vulnerable pets is that they will do better in a home compared to a shelter environment. Stress, especially in cats, plays a huge part in healing.

In our home, Dallas and Texas were still able to play, stretch their legs, sleep on a soft blanket, and get the cuddles they needed. They had a regular routine, felt safe, and formed bonds with us. Whenever possible, animal wellbeing should be considered as part of the treatment plan. I am very thankful that Paws for Hope supported their care and for everyone who fosters pets—people who are willing to learn, to share their knowledge, and help in whatever way they can. 

Dallas & Texas aren’t quite out of the woods yet. (Haha! Ringworm joke!) But they will be available for adoption together soon. Check back soon!

Cassie Preston
No Pet Left Behind Program Coordinator

PS: You can follow Dallas and Texas’s progress on Instagram.

PPS: Here are a couple of good resources: the SFSPCA Shelter Medicine Ringworm Protocol and the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program.

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