Cat Acne and How to Treat It
Cat acne is less common than its namesake in people. Felines of any age, gender and breed are thought to be equally predisposed, not just adolescents. Studies suggest that there is unlikely to be hormonal component to the condition. However, the underlying processes are poorly understood.
Although it’s still unclear why it develops, there are a few things cat owners can try to help their pet get back to their normal self. Keep reading to find out how feline acne manifests and which cat acne treatments can help.
What is cat acne?
Cat acne occurs due to excessive keratin production at the hair follicles (follicular keratinization) and over-secretion from sebaceous glands. This leads to blockage of the hair follicles with a combination of keratin and sebum, the oily secretions from the skin glands. In cats, acne is thought to be most common around the chin area, which is why it’s commonly referred to as cat chin acne.
What does cat acne look like?
Cat acne manifests as small bumps accompanied by blackheads or whiteheads. Mild cases can go unnoticed as the appearance can look more like dirt than acne. There may be an associated ‘greasy’ appearance of the fur, which is particularly noticeable in paler cats as there will be a yellow-tinge to the fur around the chin. You may notice a similar condition at the tail base, referred to as stud tail (mainly seen in unneutered male cats).
The acne can lead to a secondary bacterial infection and folliculitis. Severe cases can cause swelling, hair loss, redness and even bleeding.
What causes cat chin acne?
The causes of cat acne are not well understood. There are a several potential risk factors which have been identified:
- Poor grooming around the mouth due to dental disease
- Certain viruses
- Reduced immune response
- Dietary intolerances
- Hyperactive sebaceous glands
What is the treatment for cat acne?
Cat acne can be easily confused with other skin conditions, so it is worth seeking veterinary advice before attempting any home treatments. Never use human acne treatments on your pet, they are too harsh for a cat’s skin and could lead to severe discomfort, worsening the condition.
Although cat acne often disappears just as suddenly as it appears, there are cases where treatment is necessary, especially if the breakouts are regular or they start turning into a severe form of acne that is affecting your pet’s wellbeing.
Here are some of the most common solutions for cat acne:
Cleaning the area
Chlorhexidine antibacterial washes can be used to clean the area where the acne is developing. Use the treatment as advised by a vet, until the breakout has subsided. Often this will involve twice daily cleaning, which you can try to do after they have eaten to keep their chin clean, if they will tolerate this. Aloe vera may also be applied afterwards, to help soothe the skin.
There is some evidence that fatty acids like Omega-3 can help to promote healthy skin and they may be beneficial in cats prone to skin problems, including acne breakouts.
Replacing plastic bowls
Consider using a stainless or ceramic bowl for your cat’s food and water. There is research to suggest that plastic bowls may increase the incidence of feline acne, although the mechanism is unclear.
A vet may advise treating mild feline acne cases can with a specific antiseborrheic shampoo. Antibacterial or antifungal shampoos are sometimes prescribed if secondary infection has occurred. Do not use any human products as these will not be suitable for your pet.
A vet will sometimes prescribe a benzoyl peroxide gel to help unblock the affected follicles. However, this can be very irritant to some individuals, and you should observe your cat for any signs of discomfort. Contact your vet for advice if this occurs.
For severe cases where an infection has developed, the vet might recommend a course of systemic antibiotics.
Do not clip your cat’s fur yourself, as this can lead to clipper rash and skin irritation. However, your vet may gently clip away longer areas of fur in affected areas to make treatment easier.
Will cat acne appear again?
In some cases, feline acne can be a recurring condition. You can help avoid relapses or extend the period between flare ups by maintaining a strict cleaning and grooming schedule. Discuss with your vet what the most effective management strategy is for your cat
Can feline acne be prevented?
Even though the causes underlying cat acne are still unclear, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk. Changing to steel or ceramic bowls for your cat’s food and water may help. Regular cat grooming is important as well, and helps to detect any problems early on.
Next, find out more about some of the most common cat skin problems in our handy guide – full of top tips on keeping your feline’s skin healthy.