Acne is not a teenaged cat disease! Acne in cats also tends to develop just on the chin rather than over the whole muzzle area. There is a wide spectrum of appearances of this condition. Some cats just get a one-time case of the zits, while others get recurring outbreaks, or even constant acne. Severity can range from small pimples with beige-brown to black crusty discharge sitting in the fur at the base of the hairs, to severe acne with boils/abscesses forming in the deep tissues, causing the chin to swell up. When it becomes advanced like this, the acne can be quite painful and hair loss over the chin may occur. Sometimes the scabby crusty material really builds up and can coat the chin and less commonly, lip area.
Nobody is sure why some cats get acne, why some cats keep getting repeat bouts, and why in some cats it is so much more severe than in others. Poor immune system function, inhalant allergy, poor grooming, and food, food dish, or food mite allergy, or other environmental allergy have all been proposed.
Acne will be distinguished from other infections (including Malassezia yeast, ringworm), skin cancer, mites, and eosinophilic granuloma complex by your veterinarian during the professional assessment.
The treatment depends on the severity of the acne. Mild cases are often treated with shampoos or gels and topical antibiotic cream, while more severe cases are treated with oral antibiotics as well to counteract the infection deep in the tissues. Surgical intervention may be needed in very advanced cases. Vitamin A prescription cream has also been used. Sometimes, periodic application of cream and chin bathing are applied long-term to help keep acne in check.
One should avoid trying to burst the boils in the chin since this can lead to rupture of the infection inside the skin and results in worsened inflammation. Your veterinarian may elect to gently shave off the chin area during acne treatment to help keep water or food from clinging to the irritated skin.
Not a life threatening condition of cats, but as with people, advanced acne can cause scarring and pain and the most severely affected cats may lose their appetite.