Cats have some of the most amazing eyes of any living creature. They can see in the dark, track rapidly moving objects, and melt your heart with just one look, making them one of the many things about cats we adore. So, the prospect of your cat developing eye inflammation is not pleasant, and it's understandable if it causes you concern.
Understanding the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of eye inflammation is vital to making an informed decision and providing the best care for your cat and their eye health.
How Can You Tell If Your Cat Has Eye Inflammation?
The first step to solving an eye problem is to identify it. Unfortunately, cats are not like people who acknowledge and communicate their health problems. Instead, cats have a very ingrained habit of hiding their medical conditions until the very last minute to not appear as easy prey. This behavior means you must pay close attention to any change in your cat's behavior or appearance and act on it quickly.
Common signs and symptoms of eye inflammation in cats include:
- Swelling in or around the eye
- Excessive blinking or squinting
- Holding the eye closed
- Shutting the nictitating membrane for long periods
- Tearing or watery eyes
- Rubbing or pawing at eyes
- Changes in clarity or color of parts of the eye
- Mucus or pus-like eye discharge
What Causes Inflammation In Cats' Eyes?
A cat's eyes are relatively similar to a human's eyes in composition. However, their elliptical pupils allow them to adjust to changes in light faster than we do. In addition, cats have a structure called the nictitating membrane, which protects the cat’s eye from injury when hunting. It also partially closes when the cat is sleeping or not feeling well.
Inflammation can occur in any part of a cat's eyes. In addition, cat eye inflammation develops for a variety of reasons. Some are minor and require a simple fix, while others are more severe. Regardless of the cause, you should consult a veterinarian if you notice anything wrong with your cat's eyes. Inflammation is typically a symptom of an underlying eye condition that leads to a cat eye infection.
Common causes of feline eye inflammation in cats include the following.
This eye condition consists of inflammation in the conjunctiva, a mucous membrane that lines cat's eyelids and eyeballs. In general, you shouldn't be able to see your cat's conjunctiva unless something is wrong with it. More commonly referred to as 'pink eye,' conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye diseases that affect cats. There are multiple causes of the eye issue conjunctivitis, including bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and viral infections, though most cases in cats are viral.
The cornea is the transparent front portion of the eye that acts as a lens. Sequestrum occurs when a part of the cornea degrades and becomes rejected by the surrounding healthy corneal tissue. A brownish spot, usually ovular or round, marks the presence of this condition. It will initially be painless, but eventually, the sequestrum will 'erode' out of the healthy tissue as blood vessels grow toward it in an attempt to heal the affected area, leading to inflammation and visual impairment.
Uveitis refers to inflammation inside the front of the eye, particularly the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid. The ciliary body is responsible for producing aqueous humor, which is a liquid that provides nutrients to the eye and maintains intraocular pressure. The choroid is the middle layer of the eye.
Any of these structures can develop inflammation. If the inflammation occurs in the iris or ciliary body, the condition is called anterior uveitis, and if only the choroid becomes inflamed, it is referred to as posterior uveitis. If all three structures become inflamed, the condition is called panuveitis or 'true' uveitis.
The underlying cause of this condition is unknown. However, infectious diseases such as feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, toxoplasmosis, and systemic fungal infections have been cited as common factors in developing uveitis.
Feline Herpes Virus
Viral Rhinotracheitis, also called feline herpes virus (FHV), is a very common disease that leads to ocular cat health problems such as conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers. Most cats are initially exposed to the virus as kittens. They can recover from the infection without complications if their immune systems are strong enough. However, recovery is sometimes a long process, with the virus finding its way to nerve tissue and the respiratory system over time. In addition, because of the disease's latency leading to a primary infection, there is a significant chance of recurrence later in life.
You may not be alone if you've decided that pollen is the enemy. Your feline companion can develop allergies just like you. And similar to human allergies, feline allergies come with itching cat ears and watery eyes. The problem is that, unlike humans, cats don't understand the idea of not excessively rubbing their eyes and causing them to become inflamed.
Foreign Body in the Eye
Like us, cats can get things stuck in their eyes, (and paws!) too. For example, bits of dirt, eyelashes, or fur can find their way onto the cornea or conjunctiva and cause discomfort for your cat. In addition, if the object remains in the eye long enough, it can lead to inflammation.
One of the biggest concerns for cat owners with cats that play rough with each other is injuries to the eye. While cats are generally gentle with each other, sometimes things can get heated, claws come out, or friendly strikes become harsh blows. Scratches to the eyes can develop infections and inflammation if they are not treated quickly.
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Will Conjunctivitis Go Away By Itself?
While many mild cases of conjunctivitis without any infectious cause may clear up on their own in time, you should still consult a veterinarian because the inflammation may be a symptom of a more severe condition. In addition, watch for other symptoms, such as respiratory difficulties, lethargy, loss of appetite, or mood changes.
How To Treat Feline Eye Inflammation
There are things that you can do to help your cat before taking them to a vet. First, try to keep your cat calm and prevent them from rubbing or batting at their eye. If there's any cat eye discharge from an infection, you can clean it with a cotton ball wet with warm water.
When you bring your cat to a veterinarian, they will thoroughly examine your cat's eyes, looking for any clinical signs of injury, foreign bodies, blockage of tear ducts, or tumors. The vet may also perform a series of ocular tests to check for corneal ulcers, glaucoma, and infection. If the inflammation is suspected to be a symptom of another condition, blood or urine tests and skin cultures will also be done to measure your cat's overall health.
For treatment, a veterinarian may refer you to a specialist, such as a veterinary ophthalmologist. Otherwise, treatment for your cat's eye inflammation will vary based on the condition's underlying cause.
Symptom of Another Condition
If there is an underlying condition causing the eye inflammation, that condition will inform the recommended course of treatment. For cases where the immune system has been weakened, the vet will prescribe immune stimulants and other medications to address the symptoms.
The vet will prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication to combat the source of the cat eye infection. These antibiotics are typically given as eye drops or oral medications, though topical solutions often see use in cases of FHV. Unfortunately, there is no cure for FHV, and conjunctivitis caused by the disease is typically recurring. But, with veterinary medicine treatment, the symptoms can be managed and mitigated.
Eye inflammation from an allergic reaction is typically treated topically with corticosteroid creams and eye medication drops. Your vet may also prescribe additional medication to combat various allergy symptoms. Note that while feline allergies function similarly to human allergies, you should only ever give your cat medications that your veterinarian prescribes. Human medications can be dangerous to cats, even in small amounts.
Feline Eye Inflammation Recovery
Antibiotic treatments should help clear up your cat's eye infection quickly. You may notice the symptoms clearing up well before the end of the recommended course of treatment. Despite this seemingly early recovery, you should continue administering the medication for the entire prescribed period to prevent any aggressive recurrence of the condition.
Giving your cat eye drops or topical treatment can be a challenge. In addition, the eye medication drops prescribed for conjunctivitis often must be administered up to six times per day. Fortunately, your vet can show you how to hold your cat still while administering the drops properly. You may have to stock up on treats and shiny new toys just to make the process easier.
Feline eye inflammation is a condition with many potential causes, so preventing it is difficult. The best you can do is to monitor your cat's health and act if you see anything out of the ordinary. However, with so much to look for, determining if your cat has an eye problem is complex. That's the reason we came up with PrettyLitter.
Cats are known for hiding their illnesses until it's almost too late to help them. However, they can't hide their condition from our color-changing silica litter, which reacts to urinary elements such as acidity or alkalinity to give you a better idea of your cat's overall health. Please note that while PrettyLitter is a helpful tool in monitoring your cat's health, it is not a replacement for professional diagnostic tools, and you should always consult a veterinarian.
To learn more about our veterinarian-approved litter or other health tips for your feline companion, visit our Paw & Tail blog. And if you have questions about PrettyLitter, don't hesitate to contact us for more information.
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Colitz, Carmen M. H. "Feline Uveitis: Diagnosis and Treatment." Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice, vol. 20, no. 2, May 2005, pp. 117–20. PubMed Central (https://doi.org/10.1053/j.ctsap.2004.12.016).
"Corneal Sequestrum". Animal Eye Care. (https://animaleyecare.com/common-eye-diseases/corneal-sequestrum/).
Stiles, Jean. "Feline Herpesvirus." Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice, vol. 18, no. 3, Aug. 2003, pp. 178–85. PubMed. (https://doi.org/10.1016/s1096-2867(03)90014-4).
"Uveitis in Cats | VCA Animal Hospital." Vca. (https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/uveitis-in-cats).