What are Eye Defects?
If you ever suspect anything wrong with your cat’s eyes, you should take pet to your veterinarian for care. Even if your cat was born with deformities or abnormalities, your veterinarian might be able to help prevent or delay the onset of blindness in your cat.
Discovering that your cat was born with an eye problem can be discouraging and cause you to wonder what will happen to your cat’s vision. Congenital defects of the eye can have a number of causes, symptoms, and implications. Cats can adapt to many types of eye conditions and lead active lives, while others conditions may require ongoing care and lead to complications and even blindness.
Symptoms of Eye Defects in Cats
Your cat won’t be able to tell you when they are in pain or uncomfortable, so it’s important to regularly monitor them for signs of a potential problem. You will be able to identify some eye defects immediately at birth, but with some you will only notice symptoms as they get older. They might include:
- Obvious deformity
- Cataracts or cloudy eye lens
- Dilated pupil
- Noticeably enlarged eyeball
- Subtle or noticeable behavior changes
- Vision impairment
- Night blindness
- Darkening or inflammation of the cornea
Cat’s eyes are made up of many different parts, and each one can be defective in one way or another. These are some of the types of problems that could occur:
- Eyelid and exterior eye deformities
- Lens and cornea defects
- Retina and optic nerve defects
Causes of Eye Defects in Cats
Any breed of cat can be born with hereditary or congenital eye defects. However, the most common breeds that experience these types of issues are the Persian, Burmese, Siamese, and Abyssinian. There are many other reasons why cats might have these defects, including:
- Genetic defect or abnormality
- Trauma before birth
- Damage in the womb
- Viral infection such as feline distemper in the mother during pregnancy
Diagnosis of Eye Defects in Cats
If your cat has problems in the eyes, it’s very important to see your veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis. You might consider keeping a journal over a period of time in order to track the progress of the condition.
When you take your cat to the clinic, the doctor will begin to examine your cat and might ask questions like:
- Are your cat’s vaccinations current?
- Are you aware if your cat was poked or hit in the eye with anything?
- When did you first notice the problem?
- Did your cat’s mother have any illnesses or problems during pregnancy?
- Does your cat have a history of this type of problem?
During the examination, the doctor will check the exterior of the eye first to check for obvious abnormalities like irregular shape, swelling, or discharge. Then, they will shine a light with a magnifier into the front of the eye to check pupil reflexes and determine if other tests should be taken. It might be necessary to sedate your cat for some tests.
Some of the tests the doctor might perform include:
- The Schirmer tear test to see if the eye tears properly
- Fluorescein stain drops that will detect scratches or other abnormalities to the cornea
- Use of the tonometer to test eye pressure for glaucoma
- A swab culture to check for bacteria or fungus that might be present
- Dilation of the pupil for examination of the inner eye
- Blood tests to test for other possible underlying health issues
Treatment of Eye Defects in Cats
The treatment for your cat’s ailment will depend on what kind of eye defect your veterinarian diagnoses.
Treatment of eyelid defects can sometimes depend on the severity of the problem. Some cases only need a few antibiotics and eye therapies or supportive care in order to heal and strengthen the eye. Yet, in the case of a coloboma, or hole, that leaves your cat’s eyes exposed to germs and foreign objects, it could require extensive surgery to repair.
Unfortunately, glaucoma is incurable, but your veterinarian might prescribe steroids and other medications that can help alleviate some of the symptoms and possibly slow the progression. Sometimes it may be necessary to have surgery to remove the affected eye.
Retinal and Optic Nerve Defects
If your cat’s eye defect affects the retina or the optic nerve, there is very little that your veterinarian can do to treat it. Sometimes, the progression of the disease can be slowed, but it’s best to prepare to help your cat stay comfortable or accommodate their defect or disability throughout the extent of their life.
Treatment for corneal sequestration, or degenerated corneal tissue, involves removing the affected cornea surface and, sometimes, replacing it with conjunctival tissue grafts.
Recovery of Eye Defects in Cats
When your veterinarian prescribes medications of any kind, it’s important to give them to your cat as prescribed, and you might continue to keep a journal in order to track the progress of treatment. If your cat has had surgery, keep them comfortable, watch for signs of complications, and call the clinic if there are any issues and schedule a follow-up appointment.
Unfortunately, there are some defects that simply cannot be corrected, and the best that you can do for your cat is to help train them how to survive with their abnormality as much as possible.