A Guide to Cat Acne Treatment and Prevention

Cat acne is one of the most common feline diseases. When mild, cat acne does not show any clinical symptoms. Severe feline acne, however, can cause swelling of the chin and draining of the lymph nodes on the head and chin. Here are some tips for the treatment and prevention of cat acne.

Cause and Symptoms of Feline Acne

Your cat has two types of glands in his skin:

  1. Sweat glands that help regulate body temperature.
  2. Sebaceous glands that secrete sebum, a greasy substance.

Sebaceous glands occur in large numbers on the chin, lips, top surface of the base of the tail, prepuce and scrotum. These secretions are meant to keep your cat's fur waterproof and his skin moist and supple. When your cat's sebaceous glands secrete too much sebum, feline acne can form.

Cats have a tendency to mark their territories, usually by rubbing their chins and faces against surfaces. If your cat leaves behind greasy, black spots on objects when he rubs against them to mark his territory, it could be a sign that his sebaceous glands are producing too much sebum. If your cat is prone to excessive marking behaviors, he's probably at higher risk for developing feline acne.

Symptoms of feline acne include:

  • Red, swollen pores, usually on the chin, head, or lips
  • Some cats develop black, clogged pores
  • Symptoms are usually mild but, when severe, they can lead to extreme irritation and secondary infection.

Treating Feline Acne

If your cat's acne is mild, you can treat it by washing the affected area with an antibacterial wash (such as chlorhexidine, the scrub used by surgeons to wash their hands before surgery), hydrogen peroxide or Epsom salts. This helps stop the formation of acne and prevents secondary infections. An antiseborrheic shampoo containing benzoyl peroxide may help clear up your cat's acne. If your cat acquires a secondary infection, he may need antibiotics to treat it.

In the most severe cases, you may need to clean your cat's skin with a topical gel or cream containing benzoyl peroxide or chlorhexidine. Oral antibiotics may be administered for four to six weeks, or even longer in cases where there is a secondary infection of the skin. Topical or oral steroids may be needed to control inflammation associated with cat acne.

Fatty acid supplements have been beneficial to some cats with feline acne. Oral retinoid therapy and retin-A have been used to some benefit in rare cases, but often causes further irritation of the skin.

Remember to be gentle when cleansing your cat's inflammed skin.

Prevention Tips

Prevention of feline acne mostly involves proper hygiene and diligent grooming. Here are some tips on how to keep your cat's acne symptoms under control:

  • Regularly clip the hair on the affected area
  • Apply a mild antiseptic, such as chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide or Epson salts to susceptible areas daily
  • Wipe your cat's face gently with a wet cloth after feeding, or choose food that doesn't make so much mess
  • Use ceramic or metal feeding bowls

As with most feline diseases, prevention is key.