by Joelle Steele
And you thought only human teenagers got acne! Well, think again. Skin disorders, of which feline acne is one, are the most common cat ailments treated by veterinarians. While feline acne often looks pretty serious, it is usually fairly simple to treat using either conventional methods or the more natural, holistic remedies.
My cat Twinkle provided my first experience with feline acne. She had a severe bout of it when she was about three years old. It started with just a few little blackheads and whiteheads on her chin, but after a couple months of conventional treatment, her entire chin and mouth area were inflamed with red, blistery sores and pustules. A holistic veterinarian took over at this point and treated her with homeopathics — Ferrum phosphoricum, a tissue salt, and Nux vomica, for her sluggish bowels. In addition, I was instructed to swab her chin twice a day with an infusion (a tea-like liquid) of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Her chin was completely cleared up in two weeks and many years later, though her chin was still slightly scarred, the acne never recurred.
WHAT IS FELINE ACNE?
Feline acne or "pyoderma" is a bacterial infection of the skin, most often attributed to staphylococcus. The acne develops in the sebaceous glands of the chin and lips. There the pores become blocked with excess sebum (a greasy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands) or keratin (a water-soluble protein substance found in the skin). Unlike human teenagers, feline acne can strike a cat at any age. It is most commonly found in cats who have very oily skin. It is easy to detect because the chin and surrounding areas will be covered with blackheads or pimples and there may also be some reddening, swelling, or even a minor amount of hair loss. In the more severe cases, the chin may actually bulge out from the swelling and there may be pustules which drain.
Conventional medical treatment usually consists of daily or twice daily cleansing of the affected skin with a hydrogen peroxide and water solution or with a disinfectant surgical-type soap. When excess oil is the known problem and blackheads are the primary affliction, anti-seborrhea shampoos are often recommended. In many cases, veterinarians also prescribe topical antibiotics such as Panalog. And, in the very severe cases, small boils may require lancing/draining and oral antibiotics.
Holistic medical practitioners look more deeply for the cause of feline acne and other related skin disorders. Instead of seeing them as just dermatological problems, they view such bacterial infections as being secondary symptoms to systemic toxicities. A cat may begin to exhibit acne symptoms while in an already weakened condition that is the result of a food allergy or of being fed inferior quality foods. Feline acne may also be an end reaction to pollutants or chemicals in the cat's environment or in the cat food itself. Some experts even believe that susceptible cats may experience feline acne and other skin disorders in response to vaccinations and suppressed diseases, as well as to stress.
With all of these possible causes in mind, there are a number of holistic aids available for treating these toxicities. In most cases, these remedies usually begin with a three to five day fast in which a cat receives water and clear liquids, such as broth, in order to cleanse and calm the body. This alone often results in a marked improvement in the acne condition.
After the fast, the cat is gradually introduced to a natural diet of fresh, often raw, foods. In addition, their new diet may be supplemented with cod liver oil and cold-pressed unsaturated vegetable oil. Other easily obtainable dietary supplements include brewer's yeast, chelated zinc, garlic, lecithin, Vitamin E, and wheat germ.
Homeopathic medications may be recommended as well, the most common being the tissue salts such as Ferrum phosphoricum and Natrum phosphoricum which can be administered alternatingly. If sluggish bowels are a known contributor to your cat's acne (and this is more common than you might imagine), Nux vomica may also be given before each meal until the bowels return to normal.
Topical holistic treatments may also be advised. In addition to bathing the area with a very gentle soap, the blemished area can be swabbed a couple times a day with a very strong (but not hot) green or black tea which will help dry up the pimples. The oil from a Vitamin E capsule or some fresh aloe vera can be applied as well though these are best used once any wet sores have dried up. For its antibiotic properties, an infusion of goldenseal may be swabbed onto the affected skin.
When my friend Eileen's eight year old cat Baker experienced a sudden but moderate case of feline acne, Eileen cleaned his chin up initially with a very weak solution of water and Selsun Blue shampoo. After that, she swabbed it down three times a day with a Chinese green tea. According to Eileen, Baker's white fur turned yellowish from the tea, but the outbreak was under control within two days and was completely gone within a week.
Not all cases of feline acne resolve themselves as quickly or as easily. It depends on the cause of the outbreak and on the cat who is afflicted. A weak or elderly cat with severe acne, and suffering from toxicity, may require long-term treatment, including a change of diet, before there is any substantial improvement in the condition. A younger, stronger cat will, in all probability, heal more quickly regardless of the kind of treatment pursued.
If you try a home remedy for your cat's feline acne and do not see improvement within about a week, or if the condition worsens while you are treating it, cease all treatment at once and take your cat to the veterinarian for treatment. There could be other medical conditions present which require immediate veterinarian intervention before the acne can be cured.
This article last updated: 09/06/2014.
The articles on this Web site are informational only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice or treatment. Cats are not "one size fits all." They are different in terms of breed, age, health, lifestyle, and tolerance for different foods and other substances.