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  • Acne In Cats

    Prevalence
    Clinical Signs
    Causes/Transmission
    Diagnosis
    Treatment
    Prevention
    Prognosis

    Acne is a skin disease of cats that primarily affects the chin. Most owners present their cats to the veterinarian for evaluation of a “dirty chin” or bumps on the chin.

    Prevalence
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    Acne is a common feline skin disorder. It may occur in a cat of any age.

    Clinical Signs
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    Acne lesions most often develop on the chin and lower lip, although the upper lip may also be affected. At first glance, the cat may appear to have a dirty chin. The lesions are more difficult to perceive if the cat has a dark hair coat.

    The typical lesion is a comedone (“blackhead”), and occasionally superficial pimples are seen. In some cats, the hair follicle becomes plugged with secretions and ruptures into deep layers of the skin, causing swelling and inflammation. The cat becomes sensitive and resists touching and treatment.

    In severe, long-standing cases, scarring and cysts may be observed.

    Causes/Transmission
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    The cause of feline acne remains unknown. Multiple causes likely contribute to the disease, including:

    1. Poor grooming habits
    2. Excess production or composition of sebum, a waxy or oily substance produced by glands in the skin
    3. Clogging of the hair follicles when hair is not properly shed
    4. Abnormal keratin production (Keratin is a protein that coats and protects the skin.)
    5. Allergies (e.g., to certain foods)

    In humans, acne often is related to hormone levels and the presence of bacteria in the skin. Clear associations between hormones, skin bacteria, and the development of acne have not been observed in cats.

    Diagnosis
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    Acne most often is diagnosed on the basis of its characteristic appearance.

    To rule out other possible causes of an infection on the chin, your veterinarian may perform several diagnostic tests. In most cases, these tests are not necessary but, when indicated, typically involve scraping the skin to look for mites and setting up a culture to check for bacteria and/or fungi.

    Treatment
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    Topical treatment is usually adequate for most cases of acne; severe cases may require systemic (oral) therapy (e.g., the use of antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatories).

    In some cases, treatment begins with clipping fur from the chin to permit deep cleaning of plugged follicles and application of medication to the lesions. Because the cat’s chin may be sensitive, sedation may be required to adequately clip the fur and initially clean the chin.

    Treatment continues at home. Hot compresses may be recommended, which involves soaking a washcloth in hot water, wringing out the excess water, and holding the washcloth to the chin for two to four minutes. When it is removed, topical medication is applied.

    If an infection is present, antibiotics or antifungal drugs may be given orally.

    Topical and oral retinol (vitamin A) may be prescribed, but cats’ response to the medication varies and retinol can irritate the skin.

    Prevention
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    We recommend switching from plastic or ceramic bowls to stainless steel bowls. Some cats’ skin reacts to contact with plastic. Bacteria tend to grow most slowly on stainless steel bowls. If the acne persists despite the switch, your cats’ bowls should be sterilized daily. If your cat likes to drink from the faucet, dry his or her chin afterward.

    Prognosis
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    Acne will recur in many cats. At the first sign of return, hold hot compresses to the chin and apply topical medication. If these measures do not control the problem, your cat needs to be reexamined by your veterinarian.


    Cat Hospital of Chicago is your source for the best cat veterinarians and veterinary equipment in Chicago. Our cat doctors bring years of experience and a lifetime of compassion to our cats-only facility. We use state-of-the-art equipment, and our cat veterinarians receive continued training and education, making Cat Hospital of Chicago the best cat veterinary facility in Chicago. For more information about Cat Hospital’s cat doctors, click here.