What is this growth on our kitten's elbow?
April 1, 2010 10:03 AM   Subscribe

One of the kittens we're fostering has developed a weird hard nodule thing on one of his front elbows. What is it, is it bad, will he die? Pics and more inside.

The kittens are handled several times daily and we didn't notice a thing yesterday. But this morning we found that "Henry" has a hard, kind of rough nodule looking thing on his elbow. A photo is here. We googled some cat dermatology stuff but it seems like it could be a million different things. Does anyone have an idea of what it might be? He's not bothered by it, and I'm sure we'll take him to the vet soon, but I want to make sure we do everything right.

Background: the kittens are all four weeks old. There are four other kittens and their mother living in a spare room; they were strays but have been inside for three weeks. There are two other cats in the home but they do not have any real sort of contact. None of the other cats are exhibiting any symptoms of anything. Henry does not seem to be bothered by the growth-thing.

Here is a photo of him in calmer times.
posted by Optimus Chyme to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When one of our adopted-from-a-shelter kittens (this one) began developing weird, callous-y things, we took him to the vet and she zoomed out of the room and reappeared with a vet tech and a towel. The verdict was ringworm.

This might not be your (adorable!!!) kitten's problem. But it's not uncommon for kittens with mildly compromised immune systems (ours had had a cold) to develop the ringworm that they were already carrying.

I really hope it's not. It's pretty contagious to other cats (our two other cats didn't get it, fortunately, but both were healthy at the time) and very hard to treat. Make sure the space where you keep him is really clean - they shed the spores when they shed their fur - and wash the towels or whatever he sleeps on in hot water. If any of you humans start to show symptoms (no humans in my house ever did), it's easily treatable with OTC antifungal ointment.
posted by rtha at 10:11 AM on April 1, 2010

Response by poster: Wonderful. In the event that it is ringworm, he's not fully weaned yet. How the hell are we supposed to stop the spread to the other kittens?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:19 AM on April 1, 2010

My first guess before seeing your pic was ringworm as well. (The pic didn't help me though; my ringworm situation manifested itself as missing hair.) My rescued kittens, mommy cat and myself all got it. (Good times!) It's an easy test at the vet; they'll just bring out the black light or whatever it is. It's not that harmful, but it will need to be treated. You want to get at it sooner than later though; it's a royal pain in the ass if it spreads, because as soon as you get rid of it from one cat, another will give it back. If it is ringworm, the vet'll most likely give you a cream for it. (And any anti-fungal cream, like that used for athletes foot, works on humans. Don't use it on the cats though!)

I'd take that cutie-patootie to the vet; it might save you a lot of hassle. And then you'd have an answer either way on what it is.
posted by cgg at 10:21 AM on April 1, 2010

I hate to tell you this, OC, but you may not be able to. Stop the spread, I mean. But like I said before, neither of our other cats developed it, so there is some hope.

Call your vet and take him in as soon as possible. Like cgg says, the earlier it's caught, the quicker the treatment will be. There may be something the vet can give you to treat the asymptomatic cats (and check them closely as well, if you haven't already done so - they may not be so asymptomatic!). Best of luck.
posted by rtha at 10:34 AM on April 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks. He has a vet appointment for today.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:37 AM on April 1, 2010

My first thought was also ringworm! Which I have had with foster kittens before, and while the kittens were all fine in the end, it was a bit of a pain. If he's been with the other kittens since birth, they've already been exposed. Ringworm can take several weeks to develop after exposure, so at this point, if it's ringworm, others will either start showing symptoms or they won't. Also, if it does turn out to be this, throw out all the bedding and area rugs from the room if possible. Bleach everything you can bleach. While ringworm is not a serious disease, it's REALLY good at surviving in environments long after the kittens are gone.

And, I mean not that I have or anything, but if you happen to catch ringworm from them, the stuff your doctor will give you is hell of expensive and doesn't work all that well. Swipe that sucker with diluted household bleach a couple times a day. Not that I would know. But, seriously. It clears it right up.
posted by troublewithwolves at 10:48 AM on April 1, 2010

Henry's other foster parent chiming in: our foster contact (a wildly irresponsible cat lady in her own right) claims that OTC lotions work "just as well" as the vet. She's sanctioned the vet visit anyway, but does this statement have any truth to it? I feel a little guilty opting for a vet visit that the cash-strapped shelter will have to subsidize, but if ringworm is as contagious and a big of a pain as you guys claim, I'd rather get professional treatment.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:04 AM on April 1, 2010

That depends. There are oral medications for ringworm that work very well, but I seem to remember them being not super safe for kittens this small. With leaves you with Conofite/Miconazole or Lyme Sulfa Dips being your likely options. If that is the case, I do believe both are available OTC, the former at a human drug store and the latter at a pet care store. However, both products are fairly inexpensive when obtained from a vet and you will have the assurance that you are dosing and applying it properly. I would let the vet give you the meds, not the crazy cat lady.
posted by troublewithwolves at 11:13 AM on April 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:54 AM on April 1, 2010

if you happen to catch ringworm from them, the stuff your doctor will give you is hell of expensive and doesn't work all that well.

There are two ways to treat ringworm in humans that I've been privvy to. One is topical "rub this on the affected area" type stuff and one is medicine you take. The cream is often covered by insurance, the other stuff is more expensive and sometimes isn't. I had long thick hair when this happened to me [got it from where? no idea.] and lobbied hard with my doc and the insurance to get the pills not the cream. In any case, I hope this does not happen to you and yours OC, but it is something that's pretty easily dealt with in my experience, though annoying.
posted by jessamyn at 12:05 PM on April 1, 2010

our foster contact (a wildly irresponsible cat lady in her own right) claims that OTC lotions work "just as well" as the vet.

Yeah, don't do this, especially with kittens this young. Topical treatments *will* be licked off - I mean, they're cats, right? - and I would not risk using any OTC-made-for-humans anti-fungal on a kitten this young, or any cat of any age, really.
posted by rtha at 12:10 PM on April 1, 2010

Response by poster: oh my god this is horrifying
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:28 PM on April 1, 2010

oh my god this is horrifying

It's not that bad -- compared to how bad cat illnesses can get, this is just really annoying. In humans, ringworm is just a rash. And in cats, it's just skin lesions that probably don't even bother your cat at all. Getting rid of it completely is a giant pain in the butt (bleach becomes your new best friend), but eventually I just gave up, got used to seeing missing patches of fur, and it eventually just cleared itself up on all my cats within a couple months or so. I wouldn't recommend this approach, but, well...

But we don't even know that this is ringworm for sure. Just go to the vet, get it straightened out, and let us know how it goes.
posted by cgg at 12:38 PM on April 1, 2010

the stuff your doctor will give you is hell of expensive and doesn't work all that well.

Unless you have it ALL OVER, you don't really need special medicine or oral meds. Like rtha said, the cheapest drugstore anti-fungal works just fine (ON HUMANS). I worked at the humane society in high school and got ringworm several times. Tinactin cream got rid of it.
posted by peep at 1:06 PM on April 1, 2010

It'll be okay, OC. I know it's a pain in the ass to deal with, but ringworm ranks really really low on the scale of Bad Things that Kittens Can Catch.

Like I said before, neither of our other cats came down with it. Even Roswell, the kitten we adopted along with Yorvit (the ringworm cat) didn't come down with it, and he and Yorvit loved each other with a deep and abiding love from the second we introduced them. They wrestled together and slept on top of each other and all that, and Roswell didn't get it. We cleaned things, but there are some things that are unbleachable (the couch, the rugs, etc.), and no human or the other cat in our house came down with it. Yorvit's case was really terrible - we waited longer than we should have to take him to the vet because we didn't know that what he had was ringworm, but despite prolonged, close contact with his infected self, we were all good.

Feel free to mefimail me for commiseration or advice or whatever. Good luck, and it'll be okay! (More pictures of the other kittens are, as always, greatly appreciated!)
posted by rtha at 1:32 PM on April 1, 2010

Please let us know what the diagnosis/prognosis was when you return from the vet.
posted by ericb at 2:08 PM on April 1, 2010

Response by poster: RINGWORM :(
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:18 PM on April 1, 2010

Dude. So sorry.
posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on April 1, 2010

Chiming in with "in case this ringworm stuff moves to you" line of answers here, but the "rub this on you" option worked out pretty well for my bro when he managed to get ringworm infection as a little kid. Cleared up pretty quick too. It was basically antifungal cream since we're talking about fungal infection here, so I don't see why an otc antifungal wouldn't work in this case. Though I can see that maybe something prescription from a doctor might be stronger or something than your average Tinactin, who knows. I'm not a doctor. Caveat being he managed to get ringworm on his (then) hairless cheek, so application wasn't too much of a pain in the ass. Also my mom was pretty fastiduous with the whole washing and applying of the cream and finally, we did make sure he slept/rubbed (pillows, towels, etc.) his face on things that were his alone until it cleared up. Nobody else in the house caught it. A house full of (possibly) ringwormy kittens runnin' around and rubbin' on stuff might be a bit different though.
posted by kkokkodalk at 2:56 PM on April 1, 2010

Basically, my point being is, while a pain in the ass, it wasn't particularly up there in the "shit you don't want to deal with" list of skin issues. Hardly chicken pox or scabies level of alarm we're talking about. More like mildly inconveniencing.
posted by kkokkodalk at 2:59 PM on April 1, 2010

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