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Acne in Cats

By: Dr. Rosanna Marsalla

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Feline acne is a skin disorder that generally affects the chin and the skin around the mouth (perioral skin). The cause is not known and the exact pathogenesis (development) has not been established, although various factors have been hypothesized to play a role. They include poor grooming habits, seborrhea, stress, and viral infections. Hormones do not seem to play a role, as sex predilection is not observed.

Feline acne is considered a disease of keratinization in which excessive sebum is produced leading to follicular dilation and comedo formation. It appears to have a different clinical behavior from canine acne, as the disease in cats is not limited to puberty. The condition can be cyclical. It starts at less than one year of age and remains in most cases a life-long condition.

Various organisms may be isolated from the skin of affected cats. They include Pasteurella multocida, beta hemolytic Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus. In addition, Malassezia is commonly found on cytological examination of the material extruded from the blackheads.

Comedones (blackheads) are the first lesions noted on the chin. They result from follicular dilation and plugging with excessive keratin formation. Erythema and alopecia may be present in more advanced cases.

A brown/black discharge may be prominent in cats with a secondary Malassezia infection. Papules, pustules, firm nodules and fistulous tracts may develop as a consequence of a bacterial infection (folliculitis and furunculosis). Lesions ulcerate and discharge a purulent exudate.

Swelling of the chin is variable but it could be severe in some cats. Regional lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes) may be prominent and pain and itchiness may be intense in cats with a secondary skin infection. Cysts may develop in chronic cases.

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