What to do if your cat has acne

Cat acne is found almost exclusively on the chin and lower lip of your cat, where the hair follicles become plugged with a greasy material called sebum.

Some cats may only have a single case of acne while others have a life-long, recurring problem.

Acne in cats can be caused by poor grooming habits or abnormalities in your cat’s skin, oil production or immune-barrier function. It can also be caused by excessive grooming where the chin is repeatedly rubbed on the fur.

What are the signs of acne in cats?

Symptoms of acne can include blackheads or whiteheads, mild red pimples, watery crusts that can develop on the chin and (less commonly) lips, and swelling of your cat’s chin.

In more severe cases, your cat may develop nodules, bleeding crusts, pustules, hair loss, a severe redness of the skin and be in pain, which can indicate boils.

How is cat acne treated?

Your vet may perform skin scraping to look for mites and fungal infected hairs or take a fungal culture. A microscopic examination of the cells and a biopsy is rarely needed but is sometimes necessary.

The treatment consists of regular cleaning of the infected area with an antiseptic cleanser, plus antibiotics and topical shampoos. This should help to clear the acne.

If the outbreaks of acne reduce as a result of this treatment, gradually reduce it over a two-to three-week period. If the acne is continual throughout the treatment or reoccurs frequently, your vet will give you a regular cleaning schedule. Life-long treatment, twice a week, is sometimes necessary.

If there is a bacterial infection on the skin, your vet will prescribe oral antibiotics. It’s a good idea to discuss costs with your vet before starting any treatment.

How do I avoid cat acne reoccurring?

After the treatment is discontinued, monitor your cat for relapses. Maintenance cleansing programs can also be used to extend the time between episodes of acne.

If you’re thinking of adopting a cat with acne

Make sure you review the clinical history of your new cat and ask for more details on how the condition has been treated. You’ll need to sign a disclaimer to confirm you’ve been made aware of the condition. Any cat who’s had treatment is likely to have pet insurance exclusions, so it’s worth discussing potential on-going costs with your vet.

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