Your cat’s skin has two types of glands in the dermal layer:
- The sweat glands that keep the body temperature in check.
- The sebaceous glands that secrete a greasy substance called sebum.
The sebum is a source of one of the most common cat skin diseases that we know as feline acne .
Sebaceous glands are present in large numbers under the skin on the chin, lips, top surface of the base of the tail, prepuce and scrotum of cats. Sebum secretions from these glands are primarily meant to protect the hair against water and keep the skin supple.
Cats also have a tendency to mark their territories. Cats mark their areas by rubbing their chin, temples and the base of the tail against certain favorite objects. This behavior surfaces more evidently during feeding time. The evident sign of such ‘markings’ is the appearance of black greasy spots on the objects. Those cats that are more inclined to this marking behavior have high levels of secretions and are more susceptible to feline acne.
Similar to cat dandruff, cat acne does not show any clinical signs when it is mild. The only care that is required is simple cleaning of excess sebum. Cleaning the sebum with the aid of anti-bacterial scrubs prevents formation of comedones (black heads) that clog the pores of the skin. This also reduces the chances of secondary infection. Chlorhexidine, used by surgeons to wash their hands before performing surgery, is a good anti-bacterial scrub.
Severe conditions of feline acne can cause clinical signs like a swollen chin and an enlargement of the draining lymph nodes of the head and chin. Topical creams for treating secondary infections do not suffice in such severe conditions.
The choice of the antibiotic to be administered depends upon the laboratory reports. An oral antibiotic treatment for four to six weeks will normally cure the cat. In cases of serious secondary infection, the cat might require treatment for a longer period of time. Excessive inflammation of the skin may even require administration of steroids for effective treatment.
Preventing your cat from developing acne involves hygiene and grooming. Here are some basic tips:
- Clip the hair regularly.
- If your cat is predisposed to chin acne, apply chlorhexidine daily.
- Ensure hygiene after feeding or choose less messy diets.
- Use ceramic or metal feeding bowls.
Some cats are predisposed to use the base of the tail for territorial marking. The condition known as ‘stud tail’ is suspected to be related to the male hormone testosterone but has been seen in neuters and females also. Treatment and prevention for ‘stud tail’ is the same as that for chin acne.
Some mild cat and dog skin problems are self limiting and vanish on their own over time. Prevention, however, is a better policy than cure. Even mild conditions like feline hair loss can be signs of some serious underlying medical condition.