Categories: Cat HealthCat Skin

Feline Acne Treatment

One form of feline acne treatment5.

Treatment for feline acne often only lasts for a limited time because the underlying cause remains the same.

Feline acne is not similar to human acne to the point where one can draw an analogy from it. However treatments frequently employ very similar drugs – see below. But…never use human medicine or treatments without consultation with a vet and/or great care and consideration first.

Feline acne develops in the sebaceous glands on the underside of the chin and the edges of the lips. A blockage of skin pores by excess sebum or keratin is a predisposing cause. Cats with oily skin are more predisposed to the condition.

Blackheads or pimple-like lumps or bumps form and come to a head and then drain pus. Sometimes the chin and lower lip can swell up and become infected and sore.5.

Jean Hofve, DVM says that one common compounding factor to the cause of feline acne is plastic food bowls. These are porous sometimes and bacteria lodge in the plastic and infect the chin.

Glass or ceramic bowls are better and may cure the problem without treatment, she says.

Feline acne can be confused with: skin mites (see cat parasites), cat ringworm, yeast infection, or auto-immune diseases such as eosinophilic granuloma complex (“rodent ulcers”)4

Definitions for terms used above

Sebaceous Glands – The sebaceous glands are microscopic glands in the skin which secrete an oily/waxy matter, called sebum, to lubricate the skin and hair of mammals1.

Skin Pore – The surface opening of the duct of a sweat gland2.

Sebum – Sebaceous glands secrete the oily, waxy substance called sebum (Latin, meaning fat or tallow) that is made of fat (lipids), wax, and the debris of dead fat-producing cells. In the glands, sebum is produced within certain cells and is released as these cells burst. Sebaceous glands are therefore classified as holocrine glands. Sebum acts to protect and waterproof hair and skin, keeping them from becoming dry, brittle and cracked by dehydration. It can also inhibit the growth of some microorganisms (such as some bacteria) on the skin1.

Keratin – Protein in the upper layer of the skin, hair, nails and animal horns. The word keratin comes from the Indo-European “ker” meaning horn3

Feline Acne Treatment

The infection will normally respond to cleaning twice daily with an ointment or a gel that contains 2.5% to 5% benzoyl peroxide (in the USA I believe that this is sold under the name OxyDex).

Benzoyl peroxide is an organic compound in the organic peroxide family. It consists of two benzoyl groups joined by a peroxide group. Benzoyl peroxide is used as an acne treatment (in people), for improving flour, for bleaching hair and teeth, for polymerising polyester and many other uses1.

For people….Benzoyl peroxide for acne treatment is typically applied to the affected areas in gel or cream form, in concentrations of 2.5% increasing through the usually effective 5% to up to 10%. Research suggests that 5 and 10% concentrations are not significantly more effective than 2.5% and 2.5% is usually better tolerated. It commonly causes initial dryness and sometimes irritation, although the skin develops tolerance after a week or so. A small percentage of people are much more sensitive to it and liable to suffer burning, itching, peeling and possibly swelling. It is sensible to apply the lowest concentration and build up as appropriate. Once tolerance is achieved, increasing the quantity or concentration a second time and gaining tolerance at a higher level usually gives better subsequent acne clearance. Benzoyl peroxide works as a peeling agent, increasing skin turnover and clearing pores, thus reducing the bacterial count there as well as directly as an antimicrobial.

A substitute might be a shampoo like, Malacetic Shampoo (230ml) – £9.89 (UK)

In the USA a product is, Micro Pearls Benzoyl-Plus Peroxide Shampoo for Dogs and Cats (12 oz)- $12.79 at June 2010, on discount. URL

Personally I see no reason why Benzoyl peroxide products designed for people cannot be used for a cat as a feline acne treatment provided the concentration is correct and provided a vet check is made first. There are many products that one of which is, Panoxyl Aquagel 2.5% (£3.89 (£9.73 / 100 g at Amazon).

An alternative feline acne treatment is chlorhexidine, which in the USA is marketed as Nolvasan. An example is Nolvasan Shampoo with Conditioner 8 oz – price: $$13.99 at Healthy Pets (USA based). Chlorhexidine is a chemical antiseptic. Chlorhexidine is used in many human products including mouthwash (Corsodyl). For use in animals, it is used as a topical disinfectant of wounds. It is more effective in killing bacteria (bactericidal) than both povidone-iodine and saline, and has residual effects up to 6 hours. Some common brand names are ChlorhexiDerm, ResiChlor, Germi-STAT Antimicrobial Skin Cleanser, Nolvasan Skin and Wound Cleaner, and Nolvasan Ointment1.

Another suggested product would be povidone-iodine marketed as Betadine in the USA. Povidone-iodine contains from 9.0% to 12.0% available iodine, calculated on a dry basis. It is used as an iodine antiseptic for people. Betadine is the name of Purdue Pharma’s brand of consumer-available povidone-iodine (PVPI) topical antiseptics. Most of the information I have is that it is for people but in dilute form vets approve it. “A weak tea color is good for Betadine” (Dr Jean Hofve, DVM).

If there is an excess of sebum the feline acne treatment that Drs Giffin MD and Carlson DVM recommend is that the skin should be cleansed with a tar and sufla shampoo for cats. An example might be: Espree Natural Tar and Sulfa Dog Shampoo at Amazon – price $8.97. In the UK an example is, Johnsons Dog & Cat Coal Tar & Sulphur Shampoo 200ML at £8.70 at Amazon UK.

If the area has become infected antibiotics are recommended.


The information for feline acne treatment for this page comes from a book designed to be used by cat caretakers and written by respected veterinarians, Drs Carlson DVM and Giffen MD. The book is Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.

Feline Acne Treatment – Notes

1. Wikipedia authors

2. Biology Online

3. Med Terms

4. Jean Hofve, DVM

5. Cat Owner’s Veterinary Handbook

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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