Feline acne or chin acne is a common skin disease in cats. Unlike humans, feline acne occurs in cats of all ages. It is a disorder of the hair follicles that leads to secondary infections. Although many ideas have been proposed including allergies, poor grooming, increased sebum production and viral infections, none have been proven.
Chin acne starts with blackheads that form on the chin and below the lips. The blackheads or comedones do not seem to bother the cat. As the condition progresses, the comedones become infected causing pustules. The pustules rupture releasing pus. Eventually, the entire chin can become inflamed with chronic draining wounds. These cats will rub their chins on anything they can find. They are uncomfortable and painful.
This cat was under anesthesia, note the trach tube, for a dental cleaning and the extraction of two infected teeth. See the small black dots along his lips? These are comedones. There is one in the center of the picture that has become a pustule. The pustule was expressed releasing an amazing amount of pus in the second picture.
To confirm the diagnosis of feline acne, other common skin problems need to be ruled out including mites, fungal and bacterial infections. First, the skin is scraped with a scalpel blade and checked under the microscope for mites. Second, a few strands of hair are placed on a dermatophyte culture tube for fungus. Third, a slide is pressed against the chin, stained and then examined with the microscope for bacteria. If the infection is severe, a culture is performed to determine the antibiotic sensitivity of the bacteria.
Treatment of feline acne depends upon the severity of the disease and if there is a secondary infection present. In the early stages, topical therapy alone will usually control the disease. The chins are cleaned with wipes or shampoos that target seborrhea. Clipping the chin makes it a lot easier to treat the skin. If the condition is more severe, the cat may need something for the pain and inflammation as well as antibiotics.
-Shell, Linda G. Original author, Short, Jeanmarie Revision author. ‘Chin Acne’ Associate Database – VIN, last updated 3/19/2018.