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Can Cats Get Acne?
Cat acne or feline acne is a skin disorder that is common in cats. Many cases are mild and respond to treatment in their early stages. If left untreated, symptoms can become severe and very unpleasant. Secondary bacterial infections can also develop.
It normally first appears on the chin and in milder cases appears as small black dots resembling blackheads, known as comedomes. Although easily seen on light and short haired cats, these lesions will be less visible on longhaired breeds.
Q: Why Do Cats Have Acne?
A: Because Their Pores Can Get Clogged Just Like Humans’ Can, Creating Acne.
What Causes Cat Acne?
Your cat’s sebaceous glands produce an oil (sebum). It waterproofs your cat’s fur, lubricates the skin and is also used for territorial marking. Although researchers have not yet determined the exact cause, it has been suggested that overactive sebaceous glands play a key role in the development of feline acne. If too much sebum is produced, hair follicles can become plugged and the comedomes will appear.
Read Some of the Many Other Factors that Can Also Play a Role:
- Plastic food dishes.
- An already weakened immune system.
- Stress or a change in your cat’s environment.
- Moving to a new home, a new family member.
- Maybe a neighborhood bully cat is roaming around.
- Dirty chins (cats usually don’t clean under their chins when grooming).
- Existing allergiesmean looking cartoon cat with patch over eye and bandaid on tail.
Cat chin acne can appear as early as 6 months of age. It may surface only once, occur occasionally or be a life long problem for your pet. Hormones are not a factor, as they are in dogs. Both female and male cats of any breed can develop acne and the severity of the acne will vary from cat to cat.
The comedomes of the cat acne appear on both the chin and lip. They are clustered together giving the chin a dirty appearance. Many cases are mild to moderate and will require minimal treatment. If left untreated, symptoms of cat acne can get a lot nastier.
Bacterial infections may develop. Your cat’s hair follicles can become infected (folliculitis) resulting in the appearance of papules (raised, solid bumps) and pustules (blister like bumps, looking like pimples). If they burst scabbing or crusting will occur. If they become itchy, your cat will want to scratch, creating further injury.
In severe cases of feline acne the entire chin can become inflamed and swollen. Hair loss and a massive drainage of pus can occur around the affected care. This skin condition can also be quite painful.
How Is Cat Acne Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian can often make a diagnosis based on a physical examination. Your veterinarian may perform skin scrapings, cultures and biopsies to rule out the existence of other medical problems.
There are several other medical conditions that can easily be confused with feline acne, such as ringworm (which is actually a fungal infection), yeast infections or food allergies.
How to Help Prevent Cat Acne?
- Clip the hair under your cat’s chin.
- Don’t use bowls that are chipped or damaged.
- If your cat is a messy eater, switch to a food that is less messy.
- Help your cat to keep its chin clean. Gently wipe under the chin with a wet facecloth.
- Ensure your cat’s diet includes essential fatty acid supplements to help maintain healthy skin.
- Use wide, shallow bowls so your cat doesn’t have to stick his head in deeply (and its whiskers won’t get bent either).
- Some cats are allergic to plastics and dyes. Plastic bowls tend to get nicked and scratched and are also porous … allowing bacteria to collect and multiply. Replace plastic food and water bowls with stainless steel, glass or ceramic dishes.
Cat Acne Treatment
Some home remedies to control mild acne are gentle cleansing of your cat’s chin with:
- A mild anti-bacterial soap
- A benzyl peroxide based gel, ointment or shampoo
- Chlorhexidine, a disinfecting agent available in an ointment, shampoo and a scrub
These help control the formation of comedomes and levels of bacteria. Don’t use human medications to treat feline acne unless advised to do so by your vet.
In severe cases, cat acne treatments become more complex. Antibiotics, anti fungal therapy (if a secondary yeast infection is present), retinoids or steroids are some of the remedies your vet may prescribe.
Questions and Answers
Black Spots on Cats Chin
Question: I’ve recently noticed small, dark spots on the skin around my cat’s whiskers. I know cats can get acne on their chin from plastic dishes, which I’ve been using, but can they get acne around their whiskers/inner eye creases? The spots look the same as images of acne on cat’s chins that I’ve seen online.
I’m going to change her bowl to ceramic today, anyways, but I’m wondering if I should be worrying about it being something else? There’s no missing hair, but she has had an upper respiratory problem lately, so I’ve had to clean her eyes with tear stain removing pads daily, as well as apply eye drops.
Answer 1: Yes, feline acne can form around the whiskers too, but that’s less common. The illness probably contributed to the acne. The idea that plastic bowls cause the problem isn’t certain. Basically, it’s caused by a build up of the oils in the skin, and a failure of the cat to clean away those oils. That’s why the chin is such a common location, because it it difficult for the cat to access and sometimes gets overlooked.
Usually the whiskers are kept very clean, but a sick cat can reduce the amount of grooming they do. I think it will probably go away when the kitty is feeling up to par and does a better job of grooming. In the meantime, you can certainly continue to help her. I wouldn’t bother with eye clean pad though, just a moist cloth. Wipe the whiskers and chin and eyes, and anyplace else she’ll let you.
Answer 2: I know cats get some type of bumps there and they can also have allergies. My one cat had food allergies and had to take expensive medicine for a while. He developed actual sores on his mouth area.
I would get it checked out if she has an upper respiratory issue and you are concerned about the skin bumps. The vet could tell you if there is any reason for treatment or concern. It costs money but it is just like when a person needs to see a doctor. The cat could benefit from a vet checkup probably. source
I just got back from the vet. The missing hair is from built up moisture from the eye drops I’ve been using on her. A lot of the black I was seeing on her face was from dried up medication and eye drainage, but your answer was still very helpful and well written! Thanks.
What is the Best Feline Acne Treatment?
How Do You Know If Your Cat Has Acne, and What Can You Do If He Does?
Feline acne is common in cats of all ages. The symptoms are similar to human acne. Pores become clogged with an oily substance caused sebum, and inflammation results. But unlike human acne, feline acne can present itself in cats of all ages.
The acne generally manifests itself on a cat’s chin. It often begins as tiny “plugs” of dark material i.e. blackheads around the hair shafts of the chin and lower lip, which do not bother the cat, although he may also develop little bumps with some swelling and possibly some hair loss. It’s easier to notice acne on cats with short, light-colored coats the area will take on a darker, dirty appearance.
There is no specific cause for feline acne, and some cats will have the condition for life. One common cause of feline acne is thought to be a hypersensitivity reaction to plastic bowls. If you cat eats out of an old plastic bowls, the bacteria can collect in scratches and grooves, reinfecting your cat with each meal. The bacteria can also be passed to other cats in the house.
If you’re using a plastic bowl, replace it with a glass, porcelain or metal bowl. If you’re already using a porcelain bowl, try switching to a metal bowl, or vice-versa. If you still want to use plastic bowls, replace them regularly, and thoroughly wash and disinfect the bowls after each meal.
If you do suspect that your cat has acne, don’t try to treat the area yourself with human over-the-counter products. Your cat’s skin is more sensitive than human skin, and if your cat happens to ingest any of the product, he could become ill. Take your cat to the veterinarian. He will be able to diagnose the situation and suggest a cleansing routine.
In some cases, just as with humans, the area can become infected, resulting in swollen pustules that require draining or blisters around the mouth. At this point, your veterinarian will need to prescribe antibiotics.
The easiest form of treatment is simply keeping the area clean. Two or three times daily, clean the area with warm water and a pet-safe shampoo (your veterinarian will be able to recommend a good one). If your cat is calm and will let you examine his chin, use a warm compress on the area, and then gently remove the plugs with your fingernails.
Some cats will let you do this, while others will flee as soon as you get near them. Once you have washed the area, swab it with a cotton ball or wipe soaked in peroxide. Your veterinarian can also supply you with a benzoyl peroxide gel, which normally will relieve the problem.
While the symptoms of acne can often be controlled with appropriate topical or oral medications, maintenance treatments may be needed to keep the symptoms from recurring. Even though the appearance of acne has disappeared, continue to clean your cat’s chin daily. Don’t worry. In most cases, acne is neither painful nor harmful. It’s a bit unsightly, but that’s it.
Cat Acne Treatment at Home – What is the Best Home Remedy?
At home, you may be asked to do daily soaks with Epson salts or apply antibacterial and/or antifungal creams on the chin to disinfect the area. Topical therapy may help promoting the drainage of these lesions.
It is important that topical therapy is not too aggressive to avoid trauma in the area and excessive scarring. Clipping of the area may increase the efficacy of topical therapy.
You may be asked to wash the chin with medicated products once or twice weekly to remove the scabs and the excessive sebum from 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. The antibiotics are usually given for several weeks. They may cause stomach irritation and nausea causing loss of appetite (anorexia) and diarrhea.
Antifungal drugs have the potential of inducing liver disease, thus any loss of appetite should immediately reported to your veterinarian. Other adverse effects include vomiting and diarrhea. You should monitor your cat closely and call your veterinarian is necessary.
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