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Eye Problems in Cats

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How should a healthy eye appear?

Healthy cat’s eyes should appear clear and bright. The pupils should be the same size and the area around the eyeball should be white.  The eyelid lining should be pink, not red or white.

What are the symptoms of an eye problem or infection?

The following symptoms can indicate your cat has something wrong with one or both of her eye’s:-

  • Watering eyes/tear stained fur
  • Discharge from eye
  • Crusting in the corner of the eye
  • Squinting or closing eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Change in eye colour
  • Rubbing eyes on ground or furniture
  • Pawing eyes
  • Bulging eyes
  • Bumping into furniture
  • Stumbling up or down stairs

If your pet is showing any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

What causes eye problems or eye infections in cats?

There are a number of common eye problems seen in cats.

Watery eyes or epiphora can be caused by allergies, blocked tear ducts or over production of tears.

If your pet has conjunctivitis, either one or both of his eyes will appear red and swollen and will usually produce discharge.  If your cat is also suffering with diarrhoea and a fever this could indicate a more serious infection and so your vet should examine her urgently.

Dry eye or Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a chronic lack of tear production and can cause yellow eye discharge, red eyes and an inflamed cornea. If left untreated the condition can lead to blindness.

The third eyelid is hidden under the visible eyelid and is white and translucent.  It helps evenly distribute eye fluid and clear the eye of debris. If the third eyelid becomes visible it may indicate a wound or that your cat is suffering with worms or a virus.

Cataracts are more often seen in older or diabetic cats.  This condition affects the eye lens, causing it to harden unevenly over time and making it more difficult for the lens to stretch and focus at varying distances and in different lights. This can happen over years or more dramatically over a short period.  When a cataract starts to affect your pet’s vision an operation maybe necessary to remove the cataract or replace the lens.

Glaucoma occurs when the ducts that drain fluid away from the eye become blocked.  This can cause the eye to appear cloudy and bulging.  If spotted early, the condition can be managed with medication, however if it goes untreated it can lead to partial loss of sight or even blindness.

Uveitis is the inflammation of the internal structures of the eye and is usually caused by trauma, disease or cancer. Treatment very much depends on the cause.

Retinal detachment is a condition in which the retina becomes detached from underlying tissue due to leakage or oversupply of fluid between the two layers.  This condition is usually associated with high blood pressure, kidney disease or overly active thyroid.  In most cases this condition will lead to permanents blindness, however in some cases, swift treatment may restore partial vision to your cat.

Feline corneal sequestration is a corneal disease unique to domestic cats. It refers to the development of an opaque, dark brown/black deposit on the cornea.  Sequestra are usually oval to round and can vary in size.

Diagnosis

Your vet will undertake a thorough examination of your cat and look at your pet’s medical history. The vet will want to undertake urinalysis and blood tests to look at general health as well as testing for kidney disease or diabetes. Additional tests maybe considered to look for other diseases as a cause of the eye problem, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leukemia (FeLV), feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIP), feline herpes virus (FHP), toxoplasma, Cryptococcus,

What treatment is there?

Treatment very much depends on diagnosis.  If the cause is bacterial, antibiotics will most likely be prescribed and if the cause is viral a topical cream or drops will be given.  Any other underlying illness causing the eye problems will also need to be treated and/or monitored.

How to prevent eye problems in cats?

Many eye conditions can be an indication or symptom of other diseases. It is, therefore, important to keep all vaccinations up to date and attend regular check-ups.  Examine your pet’s eyes frequently and check for any redness, colour change, cloudiness, discharge or sensitivity to light.

If your cat has discharge around the eye, make an appointment with the vet.  In the meantime, you can make her comfortable by cleaning the area around her eyes.  To safely do this, dip a cotton wool ball in water and wipe away the discharge, always from the corner of the eye outward. Use a fresh cotton wool ball for each eye and only use drops or eye washes if prescribed by your vet.