Q: My vet just told us our cat has feline acne. I didn’t think cats could get acne. She has bumps on her chin and bare spots. She took a biopsy to get the diagnosis, so I guess it is right.
Is it due to her diet? What do I do to help her? I don’t like to touch her chin and all she wants to do is rub it on everything. Help?
A: Cool diagnosis. Feline acne is actually uncommon and not limited to youthful cats like it is in people.
Pizza and chocolate do not play a role here. We don’t understand why some cats develop this condition, but it is a disease of the hair follicles on the chin mostly. They become swollen and full of sebaceous material and old cells which predispose the cat to a secondary bacterial infection in the hair follicle.
The bumpy follicles are called “comedomes” and define the skin condition in the cat.
Some cats will only battle this condition once in their lives while others will struggle through multiple episodes. Usually the lesions are on the chin, lower lip and occasionally the upper lip.
Some will only have lumpy areas while others will present with scabs, bare spots, pustules and cellulitis. These cats are itchy and that is why she wants to rub her chin all the time. It is uncomfortable for her.
To treat this, it really depends on the pet. If there are just a few bumps and the cat is comfortable then no treatment is necessary.
If, on the other hand, she is bleeding and swollen then treatment is needed. The best treatment of the swollen hair follicles or comedomes is to soften them and promote drainage. This is best accomplished by a warm soak in a diluted Epsom salt solution for 5 to 10 minutes daily.
In addition to this, an oral antibiotic will be needed for the secondary infection for almost two weeks. Cleaning pads with alcohol are good to try, but cats can be resistant to this treatment choice. I think human teenagers can sympathize with their furry siblings on this one.
Another way to get medicine on the area is just a medicated shampoo. Now, they won’t love this either, but it will be a little better. The shampoo should be antiseborrheic and have follicle-flushing properties. These fight grease and open follicles to clean them out well. These are prescription shampoos and will be available through your veterinarian.
Topical therapy can be discontinued, slowly, after all lesions are gone. (Happy cat!)
Some cats can relapse, while others do fine for a long time. If a cat has been diagnosed with feline acne and responds to treatment, it will be important to maintain a weekly cleaning routine for life to try to ensure no further outbreaks occur.
This is with topical treatment locally, or full medicated shampoos. For the cats who do relapse, fatty acid supplementation may be helpful. Good luck.
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