Feline Acne: An Issue for Cats Too

By: Carol S. Hillhouse, DVM, DABVP

TVMA Member
Panhandle, TX

Published October 2014

Feline acne is characterized by blackhead and pimple formation on the chin and lips of cats. Acne occurs when hair follicles become distended and obstructed with debris, which may rupture and drain. Feline acne can appear in any age, breed or sex of cat. The lesionsA region in an organ or tissue that has suffered damage through injury or disease, such as a wound, ulcer, abscess, tumor, etc. can range from slight black crusty material that accumulates on the chin to swelling, red bumps, scabs and bloody discharge. Initially it is not an itchy condition, but it can become itchy or painful as the inflammation progresses.

What Causes Feline Acne?

Acne is a complex process that begins with an infection. Subsequently, an inflammatory reaction develops to the hair that is released from the hair follicles when they rupture. Most of the time the cause cannot be determined with certainty, but several factors have been implicated as playing a role in acne formation. These include cleanliness, mange mites, ringworm fungus, viruses, contact irritation, allergies and stress.

Diagnosing the Issue

The diagnosis of acne can occasionally be made on appearance alone. However, other skin conditions can have a similar appearance as acne, making further testing necessary. Additional tests may include scrapings to identify mitesA minute arachnid that has four pairs of legs when adult, related to the ticks. Many kinds live in the soil and a number are parasitic on plants or animals., impression smears with microscopic exam to demonstrate yeast or bacteria and cultures to help determine the best treatment. A biopsy of the affected area is also sometimes necessary.

Treating Acne

Treatment for feline acne begins with addressing any underlying condition and varies with the type and severity of the lesions. Small blackheads may not require any treatment at all. Clipping the hair and cleansing the chin with medicated shampoo is often recommended. There are topical products that may help relieve inflammation, kill bacteria and possibly even reduce the debris that plugs the follicles. Some veterinarians will gently squeeze the lesions to dislodge the trapped material; others do not recommend it. A topical prescription antibiotic ointment is often used, and if the infection is deep, systemic antibiotics may be prescribed as well. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be required in the case of severe lesions or when acne is thought to be secondary to an allergic reaction. As a preventive measure, avoid plastic food and water bowls; instead choose stainless steel or ceramic and be sure to keep them extremely clean. Cleaning the chin frequently may help to prevent flare-ups. Consult with your veterinarian before applying any human medications. Human acne medications have been used in cases that are unresponsive to conventional treatments, but they may have undesirable side effects.

Feline acne is not typically cured but can usually be controlled with periodic or continuous treatment. Severely affected cats may require lifelong topical therapy and permanent scarring may result.

Dr. Carol Hillhouse owns two mixed animal practices in the Texas Panhandle: Carson County Veterinary Clinic and High Plains Animal Hospital.

  • Gloria Rodriguez

    My cat has a open sore on it tummy. I really dont know what it is

    • We’re sorry to hear that, Gloria! We recommend taking your cat to your veterinarian to have it examined and properly treated. We hope your cat feels better soon!

      -TexVetPets

    • We’re sorry to hear that, Gloria. We recommend taking your cat to a veterinarian to have the sore examined and treated properly. We hope your cat is feeling better soon!

      -TexVetPets