Humans aren't the only ones who have to deal with styes and glaucoma. If you want to protect those gorgeous peepers on your cat's cute face, it's time to brush up on the most common feline eye health problems, like cat eye infection, allergies, and cataracts.
Here's what to look for and how to help keep your fur baby's lovely lookers healthy and twinkling.
Cat Eye Infection
One of the most common blights for kitties, a cat eye infection can cause serious problems for your furry friend if not addressed immediately. Also known as conjunctivitis, a cat eye infection usually comes with the following symptoms:
- Redness or swelling of the eye or tissues around the eye
- Excessive pawing or rubbing of the eye
- Blinking excessively
If left untreated, cat eye infections can lead to blindness or require surgery. So be sure to get your fur baby treatment right away.
Young cats typically develop a cat eye infection if they have been infected with a bacteria or virus such as:
- Feline Herpesvirus Type 1
As cats get older, the cause of a cat eye infection is usually due to some sort of underlying condition. In other words, a cat eye infection is often a symptom of another problem rather than a stand-alone issue.
Common causes of a cat eye infection in older felines include:
- Trauma to the eye
- An autoimmune disease
- A systemic viral infection such as feline leukemia (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Thankfully, there are several treatment options for a cat eye infection. Be sure to visit your veterinarian to determine the precise cause of the infection before giving your kitty any kind of treatment. Even leftover meds that have been used for your cat's ailments in the past may not be appropriate for a new cat eye infection.
If your vet determines the cause is bacterial, he or she will likely prescribe an antibiotic in the form of eye drops or a topical ointment. Viral infections are a bit more complex and require various treatments depending on the stage of the infection, if there are any other issues going on, and the type of virus itself.
The cornea is the spherical, clear portion of your cat's eye. If you look at your cat from the side, you can see the cornea clearly as it's the front-most part of the eye. The cornea is there to protect the other key parts of the eye while also controlling how much light is allowed into the eye and helping your cat focus.
Corneal ulcers occur when your cat looses excessive amounts of cells on the outside of the cornea. Unfortunately, in most cases, a corneal ulcer develops faster than your cat's body can regenerate cells, which means this condition will get progressively worse.
The symptoms of a corneal ulcer include:
- Intense pain
- Excessive rubbing of the eye
- Blinking rapidly
- Keeping the eyes closed for prolonged periods of time
- Discharge in the corner of the eye
Corneal ulcers are most commonly caused by trauma – like getting hit or scratched in the eye or rubbing too hard against a surface. However, chemical burns caused by harsh shampoos, dish soap, or even drywall dust can also cause corneal ulcers.
A minor abrasion should heal within 3-5 days. In some cases, your vet may prescribe eye drops or ointments to prevent bacterial infection and manage your fur baby's pain. However, if a serious ulcer develops, your kitty may need surgery.
In most cases, a vet will temporarily suture the third eyelid over the ulcer to provide a natural "eye patch" of sorts that will allow your cat's eye to heal. Your cat may also need an Elizabethan collar (aka, the cone of shame) to prevent her from rubbing her eye.
Yes, cats can get allergies, too! Symptoms of kitty eye allergies include:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Excessive sneezing
- Irritation of the respiratory system
Cats can develop eye allergies from a number of things, including allergens in the air, in their food, or on the surfaces they like to cuddle up to most.
If you notice your cat is exhibiting many of the symptoms we humans experience associated with allergies and "hay fever," consult your vet. Try to pin-point exactly when you noticed the symptoms started so you and your vet can try to identify the cause of the allergies.
While we do share a lot in common with our kitties – like a love of naps and a susceptibility to allergies – there are some conditions that are specific to the feline world. Iris melanosis is one of them.
Iris melanosis is a condition that causes the iris of your cat's eye to become pigmented irregularly. For example, if your cat has bright blue, yellow, or green eyes, you may notice brown splotches appearing in the colored part of her eye.
This change is a result of the pigmented cells in your cat's eye replicating incorrectly. While it may look interesting, it's a serious condition.
If left untreated, iris melanosis can develop into malignant cancer. It can also metastasize (spread) to other parts of your cat's body and cause serious organ and tissue failure.
The treatment your cat needs depends on the progression of the condition. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend laser therapy, a treatment that carefully destroys the affected cells to prevent the condition from spreading. However, this treatment is still being developed and may not be right for your kitty.
You may recognize this as one of those things humans fret about in old age. Sadly, our feline friends can get glaucoma, too.
There are two different types of glaucoma in cats:
- Primary Glaucoma – This rare condition is an inherited trait most common in Burmese and Siamese cats.
Secondary Glaucoma – The common form of glaucoma, this condition can develop in one or both of your cat's eyes. It's most commonly caused by uveitis, an inflammation of the eye that causes protein and debris to block the drainage of the eye. The result is increased pressure build up in the eye that affects your cat's vision.
Unfortunately, glaucoma is a progressive condition that has no known cure. However, your veterinarian can help you manage your fur baby's symptoms of pain and discomfort.
Common treatments for the symptoms of glaucoma include timolol or dorzolamide eyedrops to reduce the pressure or steroids to reduce inflammation. These treatments may also slow the loss of vision.
The final common eye health problem on our list is cataracts – no pun intended.
Feline cataracts occur when the lens in your cat's eye becomes cloudy or, over time, completely opaque. In other words, rather than allowing light into your cat's eye so she can see the world, the lens progressively limits the amount of light until it becomes a complete barrier and allows no light into your cat's retina.
Cataracts are caused by natural aging or may be caused by other conditions like feline diabetes or hypertension.
If your cat's cataracts are caused by an underlying condition, the best treatment will be to address that condition specifically. Luckily, there are many treatments for feline diabetes and hypertension, so be sure to explore your options with your fur baby's vet.
If the culprit is simply aging, your veterinarian may recommend surgery. However, there are several risks involved with performing surgery on an elderly cat, so you and your vet will need to weigh the pros and cons to give your little one the best quality of life possible in her old age.
If you suspect your fur baby is suffering from a cat eye infection, corneal ulcer, or any other common eye health problem, take her in to see the vet right away.