Back to Info Index


What is acne?
Acne is a condition that affects both dogs and cats and is quite different in these two species.

Acne in Cats (Also called: Feline acne)

Acne is a relatively common problem in cats of any age. It often begins as tiny “plugs” of dark material around the hair shafts of the chin and lower lip, which do not bother the cat. In some cats, it may progress to red, infected bumps, which can be itchy or painful. Most cats have the condition for life.

Although poor grooming, genetic predisposition, and even viral infections have been suggested to underlie acne in cats, we do not really know what causes this condition. Some cases are complicated or caused by fungal or mite infections, so we may recommend testing for these.

The symptoms of acne can often be controlled with appropriate topical or oral medications, but maintenance treatment may be needed to keep the symptoms from recurring. We may prescribe a combination of therapies based on the severity of the symptoms, taking into account the fact that cats may be difficult to medicate for long periods.

Acne in Dogs (Also called:Canine acne)

Acne is less common in dogs than in cats. It usually affects young animals with short coats, such as Boxers, Bulldogs, and Great Danes. The cause is thought to be trauma, due to hairs breaking off below the surface of the skin and causing inflammation. The acne may become infected and may require the use of antibiotics. Some cases respond to daily cleaning of the skin, while others may need the use of anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the inciting irritation.

Acne -- 9 Ways to Soothe the Skin
A Rodale Press contribution
Sure, you won't find your Siamese staring moodily in the mirror, tube of Clearasil in paw. Your Doberman won't have to cancel a prom date or swear off french fries because of skin eruptions. But pets can develop acne that's as uncomfortable and unsightly as any tenth-grader's.

Located on the chin or around the face, acne in pets is typically caused by a bacterial infection inside a blocked oil gland, says Bernadine Cruz, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Laguna Hills, California. It may occur when normal scratching irritates hair follicles and causes inflammation of the glands. It can also be caused by allergies or hormones that are out of balance. In cats, it can be a result of less-than-thorough grooming.

Acne can occur in cats at any age. Among dogs it's most common in the younger set, says Wayne Rosenkrantz, D.V.M., a veterinary dermatologist in private practice in Garden Grove, California. For some reason it's the big breeds -- mastiffs, Great Danes and their jumbo peers -- that seem to suffer most, he says.

While acne in pets isn't the social liability it is in humans, it can be uncomfortable, Dr. Cruz says. Here's what experts recommend.

For Dogs and Cats

Clean it daily. Gently washing your pet's face with soap and a washcloth will remove surface bacteria and help break down material that may be plugging the oil glands, says Dr. Cruz. To be most effective, the washcloth should be "a little warmer than a baby's bath, but not scalding," she says. Scrub gently, then rinse well with warm water to remove the soap.

You can use any mild cleansing soap, or you can buy an antibacterial pet shampoo. Don't use human deodorant soaps, which can be irritating, adds Dr. Cruz.

Add some heat. Another way to help open plugged glands is by holding a hot pack to the area, says Dr. Cruz. She recommends wetting a washcloth with hot (not scalding) water. Then wring it out and hold it on the affected area for about five minutes or until the cloth is cool. Do this once a day until the acne goes away, she advises.

Reach for echinacea. Given orally, this infection-battling herb, which is commonly sold in health food stores, may act like a mild antibiotic, stopping acne from the inside out, says Nancy Scanlan, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Sherman Oaks, California.

Echinacea is usually sold in tablet or liquid form. Dr. Scanlan recommends giving one-half the human dose to a large dog, one-quarter the human dose to a medium-size dog and one-eighth the human dose to a small dog. But don't give echinacea to cats without first checking with your vet, she adds. Some cats may have trouble digesting it.

Put calendula on your calendar. A concentrated tincture made from marigolds, calendula may help quell skin infections and speed healing, says Stephen Blake, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in San Diego. He recommends mixing six drops of the tincture in an ounce of warm water. Using a clean cotton ball, apply the solution to the acne twice a day, he advises.

Raid the planter. Applying a thin layer of gel from an aloe vera plant will help ease discomfort caused by painful acne, says Michael Lemmon, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Renton, Washington. If you don't have an aloe vera plant, you can buy the gel at most health food stores.

Don't swap medicines. Drugs made for people are unlikely to be helpful when given to pets, says Dr. Rosenkrantz. "Using any acne products formulated for people would probably just worsen the problem," he warns.

Avoid the squeeze. When a serious acne outbreak is making your pet uncomfortable, you may be tempted to squeeze the pimples yourself. Don't do it, advises Dr. Rosenkrantz. Squeezing pimples can be painful and in some cases will cause infected material to spread beneath the skin, causing a deeper infection.

Look at the big picture. While most outbreaks of acne will stick around for a few days and then disappear, sometimes it's a constant problem. It may be that there's something in your pet's environment -- a certain type of flea collar, for example, or the presence of household pesticides -- that's causing the problem. Try substituting an herbal flea collar for the chemical kind, suggests Dr. Blake.

Go to the source. As in people, acne in pets may be caused by hormonal surges or imbalances. If it's an ongoing problem, you may want to have your pet neutered. "That can do a lot to help," says Dr. Scanlan.

 The information on this page was obtained from the site www.petsmart.com