Acne, Feline

Feline Chin Acne

By Dr. Karen Burgess

What is feline chin acne?
Feline chin acne is a condition affecting the hair follicles on the chin of cats which often resembles a dirty chin.  When this “dirt” is removed and on closer inspection, small raw or bloody bumps are often discovered.  Technically chin acne is a follicular disease where too much keratin (protective protein made by skin) is produced, trapped in the hair follicles thus leading to what are commonly referred to as blackheads.  These plugged follicles can then become infected forming pustules (otherwise known as pimples).

Why do cats get chin acne?
There is no one cause for chin acne. Contributing factors may include poor grooming habits of the cat, genetic tendency to produce too much sebum (a naturally produced oil produced by the skin glands), improper shedding of the hair thus leading to clogged follicles, or abnormal keratin production.

How do I tell if my cat has chin acne?
When looking at your cat’s chin it should be smooth and clean in appearance under the fur. If bumps, scabs, or a dirt-like substance are noticed then your cat may have chin acne. The chin may be painful and in severe cases fairly swollen. Chin acne may also affect the upper lip.

How does my veterinarian diagnose chin acne?
Often the clinical appearance is enough to diagnose chin acne. Additional testing of the skin for specific bacteria, parasites, or cancer may also be necessary.

How is chin acne commonly treated?
Better hygiene is typically the basis of treatment. Cleaning the debris off the chin allows for better penetration of medication which is often benzoyl peroxide based. In some cases clipping of the fur is also necessary. Medicated shampoos, pledgets, or ointments are often prescribed for use at home.  It often helps to first hold a warm moistened wash cloth against the area for a couple minutes to help open affected pores. In severe cases oral medications may also be necessary.  Removal of any plastic bowls is also recommended as there is some association between plastic exposure and chin acne. Prognosis for control or recover is good overall.