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Everything you need to know about cat acne: causes and treatments

Black and white cat advice
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Cat acne is not uncommon but it is often mistaken for grit on the cat’s chin and left untreated. Read all there is to know about cat acne and find out what can be done about it

By Nick Whittle

Cat acne usually develops on a cat’s chin. In its early stages cat acne appears black, which is why some people mistake cat acne for dirt.

But as time goes on cat acne can become red and inflamed and looks increasingly like human acne. In fact, the cause of the acne of both humans and cats is more or less the same: glands around hair follicles produce too much oil (sebum); the oil blocks the follicles and prevents dead skin and dirt from being washed away.

What does chin acne of cats look like?

Because cat acne begins with the trapping of dirt beneath the hair follicle the first stage of cat acne is the appearance of blackheads.

If left untreated blackheads cause infections to develop within the skin. When this happens the cat’s chin takes on a sore and lumpy appearance, which is frequently accompanied by a topping of crusty flakes of oil.

Blackheads look like small black dots on the skin and have the appearance of dirt. They often disappear of their own accord. For some cats however the skin becomes infected and on the skin’s surface grow red and swollen lumps.

Some of these lumps drain trapped sebum causing flaky pieces of dried oil to be visible.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Acne affects any cat regardless of age or breed but Sphinx and Rex cats are more prone to developing chronic acne: these breeds often have congenital abnormalities of the skin.

If the infection of the hair follicles is chronic and untreated bacterial and fungal infections may begin to grow. This causes the cat a lot of pain and discomfort and, if sufficiently aggressive, can lead to sepsis.

Causes of feline acne

With the exception of the abnormalities of cats such as the Sphinx there is no single cause of cat acne. However, some veterinarians opine that one of more of the following contributes to the condition:

• Contact with dirty food bowl
• Dermatitis (due to shampoo and cleaning chemicals)
• Excessive production of follicle sebum
• Poor hygiene (inability to groom)
• Stress and agitation

Here are some of the other things that can cause feline acne:

Food allergies: It is possible that an ingredient in your cat’s food is causing him to develop acne. There may be other symptoms of an allergic reaction too such as sneezing, eyes running and vomiting. Food containing eggs, poultry, grains and seafood are best known to produce such symptoms.

Contact allergies: Some cats may be sensitive to the plastics used to make their food bowl. If you suspect this is the case you should change the bowl for one made of glass or metal.

A cat’s contact with the bacteria on the tops of food and water bowls may play a part in the onset of acne. Prevention is therefore possible to an extent by lifting the bowl to a height that allows the cat to eat or drink without

Hormonal imbalance: Hormonal abnormalities or changes in the body’s hormone levels may cause your cat to develop acne. A similar problem is seen of adolescent humans.

Weak immunity: If a cat is already ill or has a disease which weakens its immunity (such as Parvovirus) he is more prone to infections. A weak immune system predisposes your cat to a range of ailments including anaemia, kidney or liver disease and some cancers.

Treatments of cat acne

More often than not feline acne is self-limiting. In other words, the blackhead stage is the first and only stage your cat goes through. In time, the problem clears up by itself.

If you notice blackheads on your cat’s chin you may want to try a cat shampoo to aid their clearance; if nothing else this will help to speed up the process. By monitoring how things develop you will be well-placed to treat any further outbreak.

Should cat acne not be treated even when it develops further it can become infected and cause your cat’s skin to grow abscesses. It is imperative that should the acne develop into anything more than blackheads you talk to your vet to find out what treatments are available.

Here are just a few treatments and remedies of cat acne:

Dietary change: Remove suspected allergens from your cat's food (see above).
Resolve compromised immunity: Underlying illnesses may cause your cat to be more prone to acne. Treating these illnesses (where possible) will boost your cat’s immunity.
Daily cleanse: Wash the cats chin with cat shampoo to remove excess oil and dirt.
Disinfect: Apply a mild and natural disinfectant such as witch hazel to your cat’s chin. Check with your vet first that it is safe to do so.
Soothe: Apply a small amount of aloe vera to your cats chin after you have washed and disinfected it. Again, check with your vet first that it is safe to do so.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Because the presence of acne on your cat’s skin may indicate something other than a localised dermatological problem, a vet may recommend further tests are carried out to determine any underlying illness or condition.

Sometimes the presence of acne suggests a fungal or bacterial infection, ringworm or mites.

Once the vet has determined exactly what is causing your cat’s acne they can begin an appropriate treatment. Treatments will include an anti-inflammatory medication, topical creams and if necessary and antibiotic to combat an infection that has worsened. Be vigilant of the condition of your cat’s skin and you will be able to act fast to prevent acne from worsening.