What Is Acne in Cats?
From small, red or black, raised bumps to large crusty sores, acne in cats can have a wide variety of appearances. It is most commonly seen just on the cat’s chin. Some cats just get a one-time case of acne, while others get recurring outbreaks, or even have it constantly. Severity can range from small pimples with beige-brown to black crusty discharge sitting in the fur at the base of the hairs, to severe acne with boils/abscesses forming in the deep tissues, causing the chin to swell up. When it becomes advanced like this, the acne can be quite painful and hair loss over the chin may occur. Sometimes, the scabby, crusty material really builds up and can coat the chin and, less commonly, the lower lip area.
What Causes Acne in Cats?
Nobody is sure why some cats get acne, why some cats keep getting repeat bouts, or why, in some cats, it is so much more severe than in others. Poor immune system function, inhalant allergy, poor grooming, food, food dish, or food mite allergy, or other environmental allergy have all been proposed as potential causes.
Acne will be distinguished from other infections (including Malassezia yeast and ringworm), skin cancer, mites, and eosinophilic granuloma complex by your veterinarian during the professional assessment.
Treatment of Feline Acne
Treatment of cases of feline acne and stud tail involves removal of excess sebum and hence prevention of comedone formation and secondary infection.
An antibacterial wash, such as chlorhexidine, can be used for this purpose, initially two or three times daily. In mild cases no further treatment is necessary, but in cases showing extensive secondary infection, antibiotic therapy (best selected on the basis of bacterial culture and sensitivity tests) will be required. Occasionally, fungal infections (yeasts or dermatophytes/ringworm) may also be involved.
Topical preparations are of very limited value for severe cases, as they are soon licked or cleaned off by cats, and oral antibiotics are usually required for 4-6 weeks. Severe cases may also need short-term treatment with steroids to reduce the inflammation.
Keeping the acne at bay may require clipping of the hair and daily application of topical medications including:
- Chlorhexidine washes
- Use of ceramic (or metal) rather than plastic food bowls has been reported to help in some cases
- Keeping the chin clean after feeding may also help to reduce the problem