Does someone in your household have acne? This common skin condition, which is typically associated with the production of excess skin oil that plugs the follicles and attracts bacteria, can afflict any member of the family – including, believe it or not, your cat. Yes, cats can and do suffer from acne. While your kitty may not be as embarrassed about it as, say, your teenager, the condition can cause considerable discomfort and possible complications, especially if a bacterial infection is involved. Let's examine the curious world of feline acne, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Understanding Feline AcneFeline acne bears many a similarity to human acne. Glands in the skin produce an oil called sebum. This sebum can work its way into the hair follicles, along with dead skin and a protein called keratin (the key ingredient in hair). The resulting pile of embedded debris clogs the hair follicles, forming blackheads. But blackheads are just the beginning of your cat's troubles. Since bacteria naturally feed on skin oil and cellular debris, they may invade the plugged-up hair follicle, causing an infection. The resulting inflammation and pus forms those all-too-familiar objects known as pimples.
Knowing the Signs
If you're wondering whether your cat has acne, his mouth is the place to look. Cats typically get acne on the chin, upper lip, or lower lip, most likely from messy grooming and/or constant rubbing of the chin against the food bowl at dinnertime. Allergic dermatitis (skin allergies) can also cause it. Mild feline acne may look like clumps of dirt or dark specks. If the blackheads have turned into a condition called furunculosis, you may also see crusting, bleeding, or oozing on your cat's chin or mouth. In the worst-case scenario, your cat may show hair loss, a deeper skin infection (cellulitis) or large abscesses that drain pus.
Getting Your Cat's Acne Diagnosed and Treatment
Whenever your cat shows any kind of skin symptoms, it's time to schedule a vet appointment. Your veterinarian can determine whether your cat has acne or some lookalike condition such as mange, ringworm, an injury, or even skin cancer.
Once your vet has diagnosed acne, several types of treatment can help get the condition under control. Cleaning your cat's face with an antibacterial shampoo is a good start. (Your vet can show you how to do this at home without harming your cat's eyes.) If your cat is suffering from bacterial complications, he may also receive a prescription for antibiotics or other drugs.
Can You Keep Your Cat From Getting Acne?
With a little luck and diligence, you can help your cat avoid the unpleasantness of acne. Good hygiene is extremely important – and it starts at the food bowl. Keeping your cat's bowl as clean and sterile as possible is a lot easier if you replace a porous plastic bowl with a smooth steel or ceramic one. Wash your cat's face regularly, whether it looks dirty or not, with soap and water, making sure the towel is clean first. (Pet-friendly facial wipes are another option.) Longhaired cats may benefit from a neat, short trim in the facial area.
If your cat is prone to bouts of acne, ask your vet whether omega-3 supplements might help. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to help humans who suffer from acne, so it may be worth a try!
If you looked in the mirror and saw a serious outbreak of acne, you'd do something about it. But when your cat is suffering from acne, he's depending on you to come to his rescue. Don't let your cat experience the discomfort and potential complications of feline acne – get him checked out and start implementing new hygiene practices at home.