In this article we are going to talk about a little-known cat disease among owners, who usually smile when they first hear about it: feline acne, a peculiar condition/ailment that is certainly mild, but nonetheless annoying for the cat who, by licking and scratching itself, may make it worse.
In any case, if your cat has this problem, don’t worry: it’s nothing serious, but you need to arm yourself with patience and a dose of good will to solve it as best you can. In this article we’ll look at causes and remedies for this problem and photos of feline acne cases so you can get an idea if this is the case with your cat, and figure out whether to take them to the vet.
Feline acne: what is cat acne?
Although it may sound strange, cat acne is a condition that is remarkably similar to human acne, the kind we all had when we were teenagers.
And just as human acne is difficult to get rid of (and those who have had it know how hard it can be), feline acne is also difficult to get rid of.
The disease, also known as cat’s chin acne, is so called because the area where it occurs is indeed the chin, and in severe cases it also spreads to the lips, however, it then stops there without affecting other parts of the body.
Note that despite everything, the affected parts can still be touched, because feline acne is not contagious, in short, human contagion is impossible, as only infectious diseases are contagious.
As a boy have you ever passed acne to a girl just because you kissed her? Well, with cats it’s kind of the same thing.
But why does feline acne occur mainly on the chin and lips of cats? In the chin, but also at the base of the tail and above the eyelids, sebaceous glands are connected to hair follicles and are more numerous in these areas. This set of sebaceous glands in the chin area is also called the “submandibolar organ.”
The sebaceous glands in the cat are also used to produce those substances, called pheromones, which are used by cats to mark their territory, in fact if you watch your cat they rub themselves on objects and also on us humans especially with their chin, muzzle, and they like to be scratched above their tail.
When there is sebaceous hyperactivity in the chin area, the oily, sebaceous substances accumulate and may cause a clogging of the hair follicles, hence the feline acne.
Causes of acne in cats
The causes of this condition, as of yet, are still unknown: according to some, feline acne and nutrition are related, while according to others it is due to a hormonal problem. Other experts think that it is a problem of cats with longer hair, due to the fact that they cannot reach the area properly to clean it and thus an obstruction to the cat’s normal hair cycle is created.
Yet another hypothesis is related to the plastic used to make food bowls (since pet bowls, to date, do not fall under the food-contact materials regulation, as feed is not food, so they could be harmful) that could cause allergies.
How cat acne breaks out
If the causes, however, are unknown, we know what happens: basically, the hair follicle appears clogged, because the keratin (the black pigment) of the skin that is inside the hole containing the hair clogs it.
Hairs, as we all know, grow and then fall out, to be replaced by a new hair that lies underneath; if this hair finds a plug that obstructs its passage, that’s when it can’t get out and expands underneath.
So the follicle appears swollen and with a keratin plug, like a plugged volcano: that is the blackhead, or black spot.
If the condition is left like this, generally cats get annoyed by it and tend to scratch or rub their chin all over the place; the rubbing leads to infection, and so we can also have pus formation under the cap, due to bacteria entering; at this point we have folliculitis, which may be purulent, which is a worse situation than the others.
So feline acne usually occurs on the chin and sometimes on the upper lips, and the most obvious signs are:
- papules, pustules and crusts
- tumescence and edema of the chin
The tip of the chin may also be very swollen as when hair follicles produce excess material in both sebum and keratin, they clog the follicles themselves and form comedones, i.e., blackheads. A secondary bacterial infection may then appear, which can lead to folliculitis, which is the inflammation of the hair follicles, and then formation of papules and pustules from in which pus is expelled.
Diagnosis of cat acne
Generally, an owner notices the problem by stroking their cat, noticing the darker chin with scabs, so they take the cat to the veterinarian.
For the veterinarian, the diagnosis is very simple and there is no need for any kind of analysis because the problem is obvious.
Perhaps they will rule out the presence of fungi by testing a sample of the cat’s skin, and through cytological examination they will note the presence of bacteria.
From here the diagnosis, upon seeing the cat’s clinical picture, it will be simple, especially if the affected area is only the cat’s chin and upper lips.
Feline acne: cure and remedies
To solve it, as we mentioned at the beginning, there is no particular need for medication or anything similar; you need to put the affected part in the condition to heal itself.
Essentially you have to disinfect, and there are those who prefer to try, for feline acne, natural cures or natural remedies: do it calmly, because however it goes you always have to wait for your cat to heal.
The first thing to do is to shear the chin and the part affected by acne, because you need to give the skin a chance to breathe.
In fact, the problem is that the keratin plug comes off on its own after a while, and that’s when bacteria enter the follicle; shearing removes moisture from the area and prevents the infection from setting in.
Obviously we have to help with the healing in turn: disinfectants are generally used, again to prevent infection.
If we pass a disinfectant over the affected part every night, the plug will come off and the hair will have a chance to come out, thus solving the problem.
The time frame, however, is clearly several weeks, and we have to be very patient and repeat the treatment every night.
Regarding the choice of disinfectant, for feline acne hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine and natural antibacterials are all generally fine; however, the veterinarian will have to make the final choice by assessing what stage the acne is at.[amazon box=”B0037Z6VJY”]
If it is at the initial stages, a little hydrogen peroxide will suffice. If we are at folliculitis levels there is a case of needing something stronger, in extreme cases even systemic (to eat, some pills) but this as already mentioned we cannot decide.
Anti-seborrheic or antibacterial shampoos may also be useful, if recommended by the veterinarian, especially if the acne is a recurring. Be careful to pick shampoos designed specifically for cats, because with dogs for the same problem they use shampoos with benzoyl peroxide, which is toxic to the cat. In general, never use dog medication on cats!
Prednisolone may also be useful, in cases where very obvious tumescence is seen and to reduce scabs, still on the veterinarian’s instructions. If the veterinarian sees that there is infection, they will probably administer antibiotics to the cat.
By following the therapy indicated by the veterinarian, then, we will be able to calmly resolve the situation and the cat’s chin will return to its usual appearance.
Of course, beside these direct remedies, attention should also be paid to indirect remedies: your cat should live in a clean environment (e.g., where they sleep and rest their chin, or where they eat, thus the bowl); the water from which they drink must not be dirty; and some people recommend replacing plastic bowls with metal bowls if the problem is allergic in nature.
Which then we don’t know whether the cause is an allergy or not, but when in doubt it is better to try.
The only thing I recommend is to pay attention to all the aspects we have mentioned: if we don’t do it, the risk of recurrence is high and we could be back, maybe after a few weeks, to square one; it’ s not a serious problem, but the solution is not to be taken lightly. Also because, otherwise, what we have done will have been for nothing.
And have you had problems with your cat with respect to feline acne? How have you dealt with it? If you have any questions or want to ask for suggestions or relate your experience, please post in the comments below!
This article was written by Elisa Bertoldi in Italy and translated by Sebastian Jerome Conti