Pet Vet: Lesion on cat's chin may be feline acne

December 8, 2014

There are times when I receive a letter from one of my readers, and from their description I become absolutely sure I know what is wrong with their companion. Of course, this may be quite delusional on my part, but since I seldom find out the outcome of the case, I will choose to continue in that vein. Today’s letter is a prime example.

Camille is 6 years old and lives as an indoor cat with four two-legged companions. She lives a fairly sedate life with very little exercise other than moving from several different spots in the house to the kitchen, where her food bowl resides. She is fed a meal twice daily, and the reader assures me she is carrying the perfect weight for her large bone structure. Camille has been without health problems for her six years — at least up until the last month or so.

About one month ago, Camille began to develop a small reddish lump on her chin. The lump became fairly prominent initially then began to regress. It has now returned and appears to be multiplying. Camille did not originally appear to be bothered by this lesion, but lately she has begun to scratch the area with her back feet to the point now that there is some bleeding.

As is almost always the case, there are several possible underlying causes for Camille’s chin lesion. I certainly have a strong single suspicion, but it does not stop me from realizing that, as always, a definitive diagnosis is necessary. In Camille’s case, that should involve culturing the area for bacteria to find out if there is indeed a bacterial infection. This could be a primary infection meaning that the problem is first and foremost bacterial or it might be secondary.

A secondary infection can result from anything that might cause an insult to the skin under the chin. Bacteria can then get in where they do not belong and start an infection.

Another very important diagnostic step in this case involves biopsy of the skin under the chin. A small sample removed from the area can be microscopically examined to determine the cause of the lesion. I believe this will reveal a problem we term feline acne.

Feline acne is a condition that produces lesions called pustules that resemble large pimples as seen in people. They most commonly occur under the chin in cats. These lesions can be infected with bacteria, although many times they are not.

Treatment for this condition can be multi-factorial. The cases that are infected will sometimes respond to antibiotic use based on testing that identifies the offending bacteria and the best antibiotic to use against it.

More often, the lesion needs to be opened surgically and vigorously scrubbed to eliminate the pustular structure. The area is left open to heal and the caretaker is instructed to follow up with a special scrubbing solution and antibiotics.

Even with aggressive treatment, these lesions can return, although if caught early upon recurrence, home care alone may be adequate.

Hopefully, my opinion concerning Camille and her chin lesion will prove helpful.




McClatchy Tribune Information Services