Understanding Feline Acne
Cats sometimes develop an unsightly medical condition known only too well by human teenagers: acne. It is not clear why, nor is there any sure-fire method for curing the problem. But you can help your pet with proper care.
Feline acne is limited to a cat’s chin and lips and can be a life-long skin disease. It generally starts about one year of age and can come and go, breaking out at one time and then disappearing at another. It’s not linked to puberty as most human acne is, and hormones do not seem to play a role. It is seen in both males and females and in both intact and neutered animals. Although the exact pathogenesis is not known, it is thought to be a disease in which an excessive amount of sebum is produced leading to plugging of the hair follicles.
The acne manifests as blackheads on the chin and lips and may be become infected with bacteria and yeast, sometimes causing a swollen and painful chin. Hair and pigmentation loss can occur in chronic cases.
Diagnosis of feline acne is mostly based on clinical signs. However, other diseases, such as mange and fungal infections, may look similar to chin acne so your veterinarian may need to do deep skin scrapings and fungal cultures.
What You Can Do for Feline Acne
You may be asked to do daily soaks with Epson salts or to apply antibacterial and/or antifungal creams on the chin to disinfect the area. It is important that topical therapy of this kind is not too aggressive to avoid trauma in the area and excessive scarring. Clipping the area may make topical therapy more effective.
Some topical products used for human acne have been tried in cats with good success. They include topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics and steroids. It is important, however, that you follow the instructions of your veterinarian, as cats are more sensitive to these products than people are. As an example, human preparations labeled for acne contain benzoyl peroxide at 10 percent while the maximum concentration that can be used in cats is 3 percent to 5 percent.
Many cats develop yeast infection on their chins thus topical antifungal creams are commonly recommended. Many of these products are over-the-counter and include topical miconazole and clortimazole. These products are very safe in cats and are usually used twice daily for a minimum of 2 weeks.
You may also be asked to wash your cat’s chin with medicated products once or twice weekly to remove scabs and excessive sebum form the skin. A contact time of 10 minutes is recommended. In severe cases you may be required to administer systemic drugs. They include oral antibiotics, oral antifungal drugs, oral steroids or oral retinoids.
Monitor Condition Closely
The antibiotics are usually given for several weeks. They may cause gastric irritation and nausea causing loss of appetite (anorexia) and diarrhea. Close monitoring of the condition of your pet is recommended. Antifungal drugs have the potential of inducing liver disease, so you should report any loss of appetite to your veterinarian. Other adverse effects include vomiting and diarrhea.
Sometimes oral retinoids are successful. They are quite expensive and take several weeks to work. Your veterinarian will assess the effectiveness after the first month. If your pet responds to this therapy, he will probably need it for the rest of his life. These drugs may induce liver damage, so he will need periodic blood work to monitoring liver function. In addition these drugs are teratogenic (they cause malformation in the fetus), so they should not be used in pregnant animals.