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Acne in Cats

Overview of Feline Acne

Feline acne is a relatively common problem in cats. It is a life-long skin disease limited to the chin and lips. Unlike human acne, it is not limited to puberty.

Feline acne starts at around one year of age and may have periods of remission and periods of exacerbation. It often begins as tiny plugs of dark material, like blackheads, around the hair shafts of the chin and lower lip. These do not bother your cat, although they may progress to red, infected bumps that can be itchy and painful. Hair loss and loss of pigmentation may occur in chronic cases.

The exact cause of feline acne is not known. It is thought to be a disease in which an excessive amount of oil is produced from oil glands that plugs the hair follicles. Since it is seen in both male and female cats, hormones do not seem to play a role.

What to Watch For

The frequency and severity of symptoms vary with each cat.

Diagnosis of Feline Acne

Treatment of Feline Acne

Home Care

In-depth Information on Feline Acne

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.

Diagnosis In-depth

Diagnosis of acne is usually based on physical examination findings. Sebaceous (oil) glands are usually enlarged. Differential diagnoses include dermatophytosis (fungal infections), and feline demodicosis (mange). Eosinophilic granuloma may be considered as a differential diagnosis in cats with a swollen chin.

Tests may include:

Treatment In-depth

In mild cases topical therapy may be sufficient. Topical therapy should be done gently and aggressive scrubbing of the lesions should be avoided to limit scar formation. It could exacerbate the inflammation. Clipping of the area may be helpful to increase the efficacy of topical therapy. Additional treatment may include: