Feline acne is a pretty common skin issue that is seen around the chin and lips in domestic cats. If you’re like most folks you’re sure to be wondering “what exactly is feline acne and how do I treat it?” Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of feline acne in cats.
Causes of Feline Acne
Cats have oil-producing glands just like humans. When the hair follicles around those glands become clogged, acne forms. The exact reason for this clogging or “folliculitis” (meaning inflammation of the hair follicle) is not yet understood.
There does seem to be a correlation between plastic food and water bowls, quite possibly an allergy. Other theories include poor grooming, stress, allergies in general, hormones (especially in 2 to 4-year-old cats,) poor immunity, and food sensitivities.
Feline acne can occur one time or can become a chronic, ongoing issue that can lead to further extensive even draining infections. There doesn’t seem to be any breed or sex predilection to this condition, however, it’s easier to see on lighter-colored cats.
Clinical Signs of Feline Acne
The most common sign of feline acne is what appears to be a dirty, crusty chin. It may start out looking like “blackheads” in humans. Unfortunately, it can progress further if the blackheads (aka comedones) become inflamed, swollen, reddened, and infected. They may become quite painful and rupture, become further infected, or even spread the infection to other parts of the body.
How is feline acne diagnosed?
Feline acne is usually diagnosed on appearance alone and/or the history of using a plastic food or water bowl. However, it’s not always that easy. Other possibilities for skin lesions that appear to be feline acne include fungal infections such as ringworm, allergies, parasites such as fleas or mange mites, or some rare autoimmune conditions such as Pemphigus Foliaceous.
If in doubt after a thorough history and exam, your vet may recommend a further workup, including fungal cultures to look for ringworm, skin scrapes to look for mites, and blood work such as a CBC and chemistry to assess overall health and look for signs of autoimmune disease.
“Response to treatment” is probably the most common way to diagnose feline acne. This means if the skin lesions go away after changing the food and water bowls and cleaning the chin area for a period of time, then it was most likely feline acne.
Treatment at the Vet and Home Remedies for Feline Acne
There are some things you can try at home before calling to make an appointment for an exam with your vet. First off, you can change your cat’s food and water bowls to stainless steel or glass if plastic or even ceramic bowls have been in use. There have been some reports of cat allergies or sensitivities to ceramic bowls so it’s best to go with stainless steel or glass. Cleaning the bowls more frequently (at least daily) should also be considered.
You can clean your cat’s chin area with a mild antibacterial hand soap and warm water, or use a benzoyl peroxide cleansing pad designed for acne in humans. Other good cleaning options include anti-seborrheic shampoo or chlorhexidine.
Apply a warm compress, if your cat will allow it, may help loosen up the pores and increase circulation to promote healing.
If none of the above seem to be helping, then it’s time to see the vet. Your cat may need systemic antibiotics, prescription topical medication, and/or anti-inflammatories to overcome the acne or infection.
How to Prevent Feline Acne
One of the easiest yet most effective ways to prevent feline acne is to, as mentioned, offer your cat their food and water in stainless steel or glass bowls. Also important is to clean those bowls regularly such as once a day.
Decreasing stress in the home is also a good idea for the overall well-being of your cat. Using calming pheromones with a Feliway diffuser is always a good idea to help your cat feel calm, safe, and secure in their environment. Monitor your cat for frequent grooming. A decrease in grooming can indicate some sort of underlying issue.
When to Contact a Vet
If you’re worried about your kitten or adult cat showing signs of feline acne, an exam is a good idea. You can book a video call with us at FirstVet here to get an initial assessment of your kitty and to help determine if any follow-up might be needed.