Cat Acne: Yes, It Exists and Yes, You Can Treat It
Has your cat ever experienced pimples or blackheads on her mouth, face, or other parts of her body? Yes, cats can get acne, and they don’t have to be teenagers, either. I didn't think this was possible until I spotted a white-headed pimple near on corner of my cat Charles' mouth. As I looked closer, there were a series of much smaller blackheads on the bottom part of his lip.
It didn’t appear to cause any pain or discomfort for my cat. It was just surprising, and took me back to my unpleasant youth and the endless battle to eliminate, or at least hide, the unsightly blemishes. I kind of guessed that I couldn’t use Clearasil on my cat, but I really didn’t know what, if anything, I should do. It was time for some research and to bring in an expert.
Feline acne is the common name for an idiopathic (meaning we don’t know why it occurs) disorder, which is known histologically as follicular keratosis, according to Dr. Mavis McCormick-Rantze DVM of Lanier Animal Hospital, Sugar Hill, Georgia. Dr. McCormick-Rantze states, “It is very common in cats and can occur at any age and any breed."
Feline acne is a cosmetic disease, but it usually requires lifelong on-again, off-again symptomatic treatment to keep it under control. Most of the time there are just asymptomatic comedones (blackheads) on the chin, lower lip, and sometimes on the upper lip. There is the possibility that pustules will form if a secondary infection is present. In very severe cases the skin about the chin can become very thick and edematous (swollen) and even scarred from repeated infections and treatments.
Feline acne should not be confused with other diseases such as manage (demodicosis), ringworm (dermatophytosis), contact dermatitis (such as an allergy to plastic food bowls), Malassezia (a type of yeast) dermatitis, or eosinophilic granuloma complex. “It is important to rule all these diseases out with the appropriate testing by a veterinarian," states McCormick-Rantze.
According to Dr. McCormick-Rantze, “Mild cases of feline acne (non-infected) can be treated with human acne pads or medicated shampoos. If the area is infected, then the treatment involves systemic antibiotics for two to six weeks.”
You can also gently cleanse with an antibiotic soap, hydrogen peroxide, diluted iodine (Betadine), diluted Epsom salts, and topical vitamin A. In more severe cases, cleanse the skin with an ointment or gel containing benzoyl peroxide (OxyDex) or chlorhexidine. To curtail dermatitis issues, you can switch from a plastic bowl to a ceramic, metal, or glass bowl. Plastic food bowls are porous and can trap bacteria, which is then transferred to the cat's chin.
The exact cause of feline acne isn't known. There are several possible causes, including stress, poor grooming by human companions or by the cat herself, over-active sebaceous glands, and food allergies. However you proceed, always consult your veterinarian before treating your pet at home, and good luck.
Does your cat have acne? What did you do about it? Let us know in the comments!