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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Feline Acne

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

You may have noticed your cat’s face look a little dirty around the mouth or chin area. You may have even noticed some bumps there which can be several issues, but feline acne is a common one. Feline acne occurs from the overproduction of keratin, a type of protein that makes up skin. Keratin gets trapped in a hair follicle and blackheads (aka comedones) form. If bacteria infect the blackhead, a pimple also known as a pustule will form. 

It’s poorly understood why feline acne occurs, but it’s thought to be related to a disease of excess sebum (oil produced by the skin) production. Other possible causes of feline acne could include poor grooming, immunosuppression, allergies, or stress. There could also be a link between feline acne and cats who use plastic food and water bowls.  

Owners usually notice a cat’s chin or area around the mouth appearing “dirty”. Other signs of feline acne are blackheads, pimples, and redness/inflammation of the skin. If the feline acne is occurring over periods of time, there can be swelling or thickening of the skin and discomfort when touching the area. 

The veterinarian usually determines feline acne based on the history and clinical signs. There are several possible solutions your veterinarian may recommend including medicated wipes, shampoos, and supplements. Sometimes antibiotics may be needed. It’s also important to switch a feline acne cat’s food and water bowls if they are plastic to metal or glass bowls. The bowls should be cleaned regularly. The outcome for feline acne is very good in that most cats respond well to improved hygiene and medication. 

Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.