How To Treat Cat Acne

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Never in your wildest dreams did you expect to see cat acne, right? What does it look like? How does it feel? Is it contagious? Is that even possible? Yes, it is possible, and it has nothing to do with growing up.

Cat acne can be a one-time condition, an occasional occurrence, or a life-long condition.

cat acne

How do you identify and treat cat chin acne? This article will help you answer the questions you might have about cat acne.

Noticing Acne on Your Cat

Acne in cats, just like humans, has a blackhead or whitehead appearance. It may present like dirt on the skin in light-colored and white cats. Acne can also manifest in the form of red pimples or crust filled with water. It mainly forms in the chin area, which is why it is called cat chin acne.

Blackheads occur when the skin follicles are opened but clogged with sebum (an oily substance produced by a gland in the skin and helps moisten the skin) and dead skin cells. Skin follicles that are closed but clogged protrude to form whiteheads.

What Exactly is Cat Acne?

Cat acne, feline acne, or chin acne occurs when the follicular skin cells rapidly divide and are quickly filled with keratin (the horny protein structure that makes up the skin, hair, nails, hoof, claws, feathers). This is known as follicular hyperplasia and follicular keratinization.

It can develop at any age, breed, gender, and it is not related whatsoever to adolescent or teenagehood. The Persian cat breed is thought to be predisposed to a severe form of this condition known as idiopathic Persian Facial Dermatitis.

It should not be confused with contact dermatitis, mange, feline leprosy, ringworm, flea dirt, or eosinophilic granuloma complex. Your veterinarian will rule out these conditions after a complete physical exam.

sever feline dermatitis I Love Veterinary - Blog for Veterinarians, Vet Techs, Students
From the I Love Veterinary Facebook Archive: From Nicole Martell-Moran‎: “Severe dermatitis in a cat that was hiding below the fur months after an ante-pubic urethrostomy.”

How is Cat Acne Treated?

When you notice acne in your cat, resist the urge to pop them out as tempting as it might be. Firstly, this will be painful for your cat and also help spread the acne to other places. You can use mild to lukewarm water as compressions to help soothe pain and inflammation.

Once cat acne has been diagnosed in your cat, the hair around the infected area will be clipped off, and the area washed with a shampoo that contains ethyl lactate or benzoyl peroxide until the lesion heals. The area can also be cleaned with chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide, and diluted iodine.

Metronidazole gel, mupirocin, or other topical antibacterial products that contain tetracycline or clindamycin will be given for your pet’s use. Your cat will be on antibiotics for a minimum of two weeks if a systemic bacterial infection is suspected. Anti-inflammatory drugs will be given for the inflammation.

Aloe vera and cat acne wipes can also be used to help soothe the skin. Omega-3 and other fatty acids can be given to help improve skin health. In very severe cases, oral Vitamin A or isotretinoin will be given to aid healing. In some cases, no treatment is necessary as the acne usually resolves on its own.

aloe vera gel

Plastic eating and drinking bowls should be replaced with ceramic bowls or stainless steel. Good hygiene and good nutrition are essential to help the body fight acne, especially when secondary infections occur. Your cat food can be changed to include a bland diet, low-protein diets (to reduce the production of keratin).

Do not use human acne treatments in cats as you will damage their skin.

The Causes of Feline Acne

The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but it is believed to be caused by hyperactivity of the sebaceous glands and excessive production of keratin. Too much sebum produced by the sebaceous glands can cause the hair follicles to become inflamed, leading to acne.

Other considered causes of feline acne include poor or over-grooming habits, hormonal imbalance, stress, viruses, food allergies, dust and mold, excessive chin rubbing, abnormalities in the skin oil production, secondary bacterial infection, flea bites, and a suppressed immune system.

It is also believed that plastics can lead to the spread of acne on your cats. This is because cats that use plastic bowls for feeding or watering usually develop cat acne as plastics are more likely to retain bacteria on their surface.

The Chances of Cat Acne Recurring

Whiles some cats can get just one episode of acne in their lifetime, some cats get recurring acne. It is vital to maintain a rigid grooming schedule for your cat. Affected cats may be on topical therapy for their entire life.

If cat acne reoccurs in your cat, your veterinarian might put it on a life-long treatment twice a week or at the veterinarian’s discretion.

The Clinical Signs of Cat Chin Acne

Cat chin acne doesn’t look like the acnes that pop up on our faces from time to time. Signs of acne in cats include lesions with;

  • A blacktip plug that clogs the pore of the lesion, known as blackhead or comedones.
  • Red crusted papules as a result of blood rushing to the area.
  • A pimple-like blister filled with pus called a pustule.
  • Dirty appearance on the skin.

The lesions usually affect the skin adjacent to the upper or lower lips (chin). It can sometimes affect the lips and neck area as well. As the lesions progress, follicles are formed, which later creates abscesses and causes the chin to be swollen.

The swelling may have filled accumulated under the skin (edematous), the skin may be thickened and scared. The lesion can also be affected by opportunistic bacteria, which leads to inflammation and secondary bacterial infection. Hair loss can occur in the infected area also.

Lymph nodes around the infected area, such as the mandibular lymph nodes, may become big (lymphadenopathy), indicating the presence of an infection.

Is Cat Acne Contagious?

Cat acne is not contagious (i.e.); it is not passed from one cat to another. Other cats are safe and can play with your cat even when it has cat acne. Cat acne is not zoonotic – it does not spread to humans.

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Currently a Veterinary House Officer at the University of Ghana, Akosua plays a pivotal role in disease diagnosis, treatment, and student supervision. Akosua's educational journey in veterinary medicine has been instrumental in shaping her commitment to public education and awareness. Her veterinary training equips her to communicate complex topics for public understanding. Her online presence on Instagram reaches a wider audience. She actively engages in public speaking, inspiring a deeper understanding of responsible pet care and the role of veterinary professionals in fostering a healthier coexistence between humans and animals.