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Feline Acne
By Dr. Bridgette Johnson

Feline acne is a common occurrence in cats. There are sebaceous glands fund in the skin that are associated with the hair follicle. These glands produce a substance called sebum that helps to keep the hair and skin lubricated and prevents them from drying out. Sometimes these glands can become blocked which forms the comedones (blackheads) on the chin and/or lips of the cat. Unlike human acne, feline acne is not limited to puberty. This condition can occur in any age or gender of cats and can wax and wane throughout the lifetime of the cat.

The exact cause of feline acne is unknown however there can be several contributing factors that can lead to its development such as:

* Suppressed immune system
*Concurrent infection or disease
*Poor grooming habits
* Stress
*Abnormal sebum production
*Contact dermatitis/sensitivity
* Bacterial overload — it was once thought that contact sensitivity from plastic food bowls contributed to the development of acne, however it was discovered that it was more the level of bacteria present on the food bowl that played a role in acne. It is advisable to use glass, ceramic or metal dishes to feed your cat as well as to thoroughly clean the bowls daily.

Mild cases will appear as the blackheads on the chin and/or lips that typically do not bother the cat. The blackheads make the cat appear to have a dirty chin. In more severe cases the blackheads can progress to swollen, draining pustules that can be very itchy and painful and often have a secondary bacterial infection. Redness, bleeding and hair loss on the chin are also possible signs of acne.

Most cases of acne are diagnosed by your veterinarian on examination. The presence of skin mites, bacterial or fungal infections, other external parasites like fleas will need to be ruled out to determine whether or not the cat is suffering from acne. Test like a skin scraping, bacterial or fungal culture may need to be performed, and in severe cases a skin biopsy may be warranted for a diagnosis.

The treatment of this condition depends on its severity with each individual case. In mild cases your veterinarian may recommend using a mild topical cleanser like chlorhexidine or washing the chin once to twice daily with benzoyl peroxide shampoos to help break down the oils in the skin. In some severe cases, shaving the hair from the chin may be required and topical antifungals or antibiotics may be required as well to treat underlying skin infections. Your vet may also recommend oral medications such as antibiotics, antifungal and even corticosteroids (for anti-inflammatory purposes).

If you suspect that your cat may be developing acne, have it evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible to reduce the possibility of your cat developing a secondary infection and make treatment easier and less painful for your cat.

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