acne is probably more common than is generally appreciated,
as most cases are mild and pass unnoticed. More severe cases,
however, may respond slowly to treatment and seriously detract
from the appearance of the cat.
main types of gland are found in the dermal layer of the skin
of the cat - the sweat glands and the sebaceous glands. Most
of the sebaceous glands are associated with hair follicles
and produce an oily secretion, sebum, which waterproofs the
hairs and maintains the suppleness of the skin. In addition,
a collection of much larger sebaceous glands are found on
the chin, the lips, the dorsal (top) surface of the base of
the tail and also the eyelids, prepuce and scrotum. The collection
of glands under the skin in the chin area is sometimes referred
to as the submental organ and the glands around the base of
the tail are known as the supracaudal organ.
oily secretion of these larger sebaceous glands appears to
have a role in territorial marking and cats will repeatedly
rub their chin, lips, temporal area and base of tail over
certain objects. In time the secretions build up on favourite
marking objects and may be seen as black, greasy patches.
Cat owners may have noticed that they are 'marked' by their
pets on returning home. Cats will also often mark certain
objects at feeding time.
of the submental organs is a relatively common finding and
is seen as excessive greasiness of the overlying fur and skin.
This is particularly noticeable on the chin of white or pale
coloured cats and appears as a yellow, greasy discolouration.
There may also be flecks of black, greasy material on the
chin which may be mistaken for flea dirt; this is sometimes
called 'cruddy chin'.
of the glands at the base of the tail is often known as 'stud
tail'. It has been suggested that activity of the supracaudal
organ around the base of the tail depends on testosterone
(the male hormone). Stud tail is most common in entire males,
but, despite its name, is also seen in neuters and females.
overactivity of the sebaceous glands predisposes to feline
acne which is seen in varying degrees of severity. The condition
remains poorly understood in terms of an underlying cause
and is assumed to represent a form of keratinisation disorder (keratin
is a protein which is the main component of hair and nails)
where the cat's hair follicles produce excessive
keratinous/sebaceous material. It may occur at any age and
in any breed or sex. In mild cases, the associated hair follicles
become plugged with the black sebaceous material forming comedones
(commonly referred to as a blackhead). Secondary bacterial
infection may result, leading to folliculitis (inflammation
of the hair follicles) and formation of papules and pustules
from which beads of pus may be expressed. In severe cases
of inflammation of multiple follicles, pyoderma (an eruption
characterised by pus in the skin) develops, with a mass of
discharging tracts or sinuses. Cats with mild feline acne
or stud tail show no associated clinical signs but in severe
cases there may be inflammation and irritation of the overlying
skin. The point of the chin may become grossly swollen and
there may be an enlargement of the draining lymph nodes of
the head and neck.
of cases of feline acne and stud tail involves removal of
excess sebum and hence prevention of comedone formation and
secondary infection. An antibacterial surgical scrub, such
as chlorhexidine, can initially be used for this purpose two
or three times daily. In mild cases no further treatment is
necessary, but in cases showing extensive secondary infection,
antibiotic therapy, preferably selected on the basis of bacterial
culture and sensitivity tests, will be required.
preparations are of very limited value for severe cases because
they are soon licked or cleaned off by the patient, and antibiotics
should be given orally for four to six weeks. Severe cases
may also be treated with steroids to reduce the inflammation.
Keeping the acne at bay may require clipping and daily application
of chlorhexidine. Other treatments which have been tried include
mupirocin (Bactroban; Beecham - a human drug not licensed for use in
cats). Topical retinoids may be considered for long term control
of a mild case. Supplementation with veterinary formulated essential fatty acids
(evening primrose oil/fish oil) orally on a daily basis has
been reported to help some cases, eg, Viacutan (Boehringer), Efavet (Efamol). Most cases respond satisfactorily
but some cases with serious secondary infection may require
may be recurrence and in some cases the only method of controlling
the excessive sebum secretion is to continue daily cleansing
acne is associated with fungal infections including dematophytosis
(ringworm) and, rarely, with demodectic mange.
severe form of the condition is reported in Persians - it
is known as idiopathic Persian facial dermatitis - some veterinary
surgeons call it 'dirty face'. It can be very difficult to
manage. The skin of such cats shows a black waxy material
on the hairs in a symmetrical pattern on the face, but particularly
the chin and around the eyes.
some cats with a tendency to chin acne, the use of ceramic
or metal feeding dishes, instead of plastic ones, may help
to prevent the problem from recurring or deteriorating. Chin
acne is sometimes more severe in cats which are messy feeders,
so scrupulous attention to hygiene after meals, or a change
to food which can be eaten more neatly, may help to reduce
Updated November 2008