What is Cloudy Eye?
Though eye disease is less common in cats than dogs, you should rush to the vet as soon as you can if your cat’s eye or eyes appear cloudy. Since cloudy eye is symptomatic of a number of serious eye conditions, immediate veterinary attention should be sought in order to ensure the best prognosis for your cat’s sight.
A cloudy eye is symptomatic of several eye diseases in cats. These include, but are not limited to: corneal ulceration, keratitis, cataracts, and glaucoma. A number of diseases of the cornea and lens may be characterized by cloudy eyes. There are secondary non-infectious causes as well, such as exposure to certain toxins or chemicals.
Symptoms of Cloudy Eye in Cats
Seek immediate veterinary attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Rubbing the eyes
- Excess tear production
- Light sensitivity
- Signs of pain
- Squinting and rapid blinking
- One eye appears larger than the other
- Confusion or disorientation
Causes of Cloudy Eye in Cats
There are several causes of cloudy eye in cats. Primary causes include disease, which may also involve secondary, noninfectious causes such as trauma and exposure to chemicals. Each cause is described in-depth below.
Corneal ulcers can occur for a number of reasons, such as blunt trauma to the eye, exposure to chemicals, or infection. Ulcers in the cornea form when the epithelium, a thin layer of protective cells, is fully penetrated. Tears enter the stroma, underneath the epithelium, which is responsible for the cloudy appearance of the eyes.
This condition is characterized by corneal inflammation and swelling. Keratitis may be attributed to a number of secondary causes, such as infection and injury. Keratitis is often caused by the feline herpesvirus.
While cataracts are more common in older animals, cats typically develop cataracts due to inflammation or trauma to the lens rather than old age. (However, old age and other diseases may cause cataracts.) Cataracts are characterized by cloudy eye and partial to full vision loss.
This irreversible disease occurs when the aqueous fluid within the eye stops draining properly. This buildup of fluid causes pressure on the optic nerve, causing nerve damage. This nerve damage will seriously impair your cat’s vision. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms manifest, partial vision loss has already occurred.
Diagnosis of Cloudy Eye in Cats
Your vet will make a tentative diagnosis based on a thorough physical examination, complete medical history, and presentation of symptoms. Be sure to inform your vet of the extent and duration of your cat’s symptoms, as well as any previous history of eye problems or traumatic injury that you know of.
Your vet can reach a definitive diagnosis through a number of tests, and will choose the most appropriate method based on the suspected disease or cause. These tests may include: corneal stain, cell culture, microscopic examination of corneal tissue, and the use of a tonometer (administering a puff of air to the eye to test intraocular pressure).
Treatment of Cloudy Eye in Cats
Treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.
Corneal ulcerations and keratitis are typically treated with antibiotic and/or pain relief eye drops and ointments. Antibiotic treatments will have to be administered several times a day, around every four to six hours. Pain relief drops or ointments are administered less frequently, from every twelve to forty-eight hours. If the keratitis is caused by the feline herpes virus, treatment may be more invasive.
Cataracts, though irreversible, may be managed by treating a secondary cause of the condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Cataracts are often corrected with surgery, which is successful for most cases. This surgery takes about one hour, and involves removing the cataracts and implanting a synthetic lens.
There is no cure for glaucoma; treatment is palliative, or done to relieve the cat’s pain rather than curing the underlying condition. Your vet may prescribe steroids and special eye drops to reduce inflammation and pressure. These may slow the progression of vision loss.
Your vet will be able to advise you on a treatment and recovery plan – or refer you to an ophthalmologist – based on your cat’s needs.
Recovery of Cloudy Eye in Cats
Recovery and prognosis will vary depending on the severity of the condition and effectiveness of treatment. Always follow your vet’s post-treatment or post-operative instructions carefully. It is imperative that you administer antibiotic medications for the entire recommended duration of treatment even if the condition starts to improve. Failure to do so could result in aggressive recurrence or loss of sight.
Corneal ulcerations and keratitis tend to heal within three to five days with treatment. Some ulcers caused by infection may take longer to heal. Your vet will advise you based on your cat’s symptoms.
For cataracts and glaucoma, your vet may schedule follow-up appointments as needed to monitor the condition. If the cloudy eye is not improving or seems to be getting worse despite treatment, contact your vet immediately.
Cloudy Eye Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My kitten is about 6 months old. About a month ago, she became very lethargic and sneezed all the time. I took her to the vet, and they said it was an upper resporatory infection, and prescribed her some antibiotics. Then about a week later, her right eye became a little cloudy. You can tell when it's reflected in the light that it's not as clear as the other eye. She doesn't seem to be in pain, but again she is lethargic and seems fevered. No eye discharge, no sneezing, she eats fine and poops fine too. She hasn't been playing with her toys anymore either.
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my cat's eye was normal now all of a sudden his left eye is cloudy... i'm not sure what the cause of this problem is but i love him very much and need to fix the problem. he is not acting different yet his eye looks way different from the other. please help me.
It sounds like Buddy may have uveitis which may occur in cats, especially with the speed that the cloudiness appeared. A visit to your Veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis and the prescription of topical eye drops (oral medication in some cases). If Buddy isn’t showing any signs of pain or discomfort this would wait until Monday morning, but don’t leave it too long as permenant damage may occur. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
I adopted a cat with cloudy eye. The vet said its scaring and will not go away and the kitten is healthy. Will it really be okay? Its not discharging or bothering him at all. They said it he can live a ling happy lufe and it wont effect his other eye. Is this true?
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Our 12 yr old cat had 2 back molars and one front canine tooth removed a week ago. She was given an antibiotic shot, and we were sent home with liquid pain medication. After the 4th day, her right eye has become cloudy. We took her to the vet; her mouth is healing. There is a little light getting into the one eye. She is not showing pain in her eye, or tearing. They are suggesting an ophthalmologist, but I am hesitant. She has already been traumatized by the surgery, and she is 12. Prior to surgery, she had no issues with her eyes. Because of her age, etc., I am thinking of not pursuing extensive procedures, unless you thought she might just need some eye drops. I have not seen anything online that addresses this. Thank you very much for your thoughts.
Most commonly cloudiness of the eye in cats is used by uveal inflammation (inflammation of the iris); this can be caused by different causes itself including trauma, scratches, poisoning, corneal ulceration, glaucoma etc… If the cloudiness is cataracts there is a high probability that the second eye would be affected within a year. I would recommend visiting an Ophthalmologist just to get a diagnosis so you know what your options are. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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