Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Cats Get Acne Too

Pet Column for the week of April 23, 2012

Related information:

Services - Dermatology

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Susan Norris
Information Specialist

Have you ever noticed what looks like little clumps of dirt on your cat’s chin? You may be surprised to learn that those crusty black lesions are likely the same condition that plagues teenagers everywhere – acne, or more specifically, feline chin acne.

The “dirt,” it turns out, is actually blackheads that clog pores and can lead to inflammation and mild hair loss. Some cats suffer from chronic chin acne, while others have only occasional outbreaks. It is not usually related to underlying allergies. Fortunately, feline acne is in most cases not a serious condition and can be managed quite easily.

Dr. Katrine Voie, a veterinarian pursuing board certification in dermatology at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, says, “Chin acne is a common occurrence in cats. In most cases it is a cosmetic disease and may not cause problems, unless the lesions become secondarily infected.”

Feline acne is usually fairly straightforward to diagnose, but a skin scraping or skin biopsy may be needed to rule out other more serious conditions, especially if the appearance is at all atypical. Your veterinarian will advise you whether environmental changes alone may resolve the problem, or whether medication may be needed.

What about food bowls? Dr. Voie challenges a common misconception that plastic food bowls are the culprit. While keeping food bowls clean is always a good idea, changing to a different type of bowl is unnecessary.

If your cat has an outbreak of acne, regular shampooing of the affected area with a product containing 3% or less benzoyl peroxide is recommended. Salicyclic acid wipes can also be used, and other topical or oral medications can be used in severe cases if necessary.

If a yeast or bacterial infection is present, your veterinarian may prescribe a different product and may also put the cat on antibiotics. A fatty acid supplement may also help; your veterinarian can advise you about incorporating this supplement into your cat’s diet.

If you have any questions about your cat’s health, please contact your local veterinarian.