What is Eye Discharge?
While occasional eye discharge may not be a great concern, chronic or long-term recurring eye discharge should be addressed with your veterinarian. Many of the diseases and conditions that cause eye discharge can cause blindness or systemic infection and seeking early veterinary attention can help save the sight of your cat.
Eye discharge in cats is typically a symptom of an underlying condition and not a disease in itself. Eye discharge is usually an indication of an infection, injury, or other problem and can cause serious discomfort for your cat. From seeping discharge to scratching, pain, or irritation, eye discharge is an uncomfortable symptom for your pet.
Symptoms of Eye Discharge in Cats
Eye discharge in your cat can vary in consistency, frequency and irritation levels. In some cats, eye discharge may occur on its own. In others, it may show up in connection with one or more additional symptoms. Signs of eye discharge and conditions related to eye discharge in your cat may include:
- Substance accumulating around edges of eyes ranging from thin and watery to thick and mucus-like
- Crusty formations around edges of eyes indicating dried discharge
- Cat itching eyes or continuously rubbing face against humans or household objects
- Red, swollen, or irritated-looking eyes
- Excessive wetness to tear area on cat’s face
Causes of Eye Discharge in Cats
Eye discharge in your cat may be a symptom of a number of different conditions. Some of the most common causes of eye discharge may include:
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Eye infection
- Upper respiratory infection that has blocked tear ducts
- Foreign object in eye
- Injury of eye
- Ulcers of the various structures of the eye
Diagnosis of Eye Discharge in Cats
Since eye discharge is a symptom shared by a number of underlying diseases and conditions, diagnosis of your cat’s medical issue will begin with a process called a differential diagnosis. This is an investigative technique in which your veterinarian will attempt to rule out the most common causes of the condition until he or she finds an underlying cause that most accurately fits the entirety of your cat’s symptoms. This type of diagnosis will require cat owners to provide as much detail as possible regarding the cat’s condition at the initial veterinary visit. You should inform your veterinarian of when the symptoms first began, whether there has been any worsening or improvement, and whether there are additional symptoms besides eye discharge that may help your veterinarian narrow down the specific underlying cause.
During your initial visit, your vet will perform a thorough physical exam. Your vet may check your cat’s temperature, check them over for any sore or tender areas and also request a standard blood panel. All of these procedures will help your vet determine whether your cat is suffering from an underlying system-wide infection, or perhaps is having an allergic reaction or suffering from seasonal allergies.
The most definitive diagnostic tool for determining the underlying cause of eye discharge in your cat will be an exam of the eye using a tool called an ophthalmoscope, the same device used in human eye exams. This will allow your vet to see a magnified view of the eye. Your vet may also want to look at your cat’s eyes under this same microscope after application of dye in a procedure known as a fluorescein eye stain test. In this test, harmless eye drops are applied to your cat’s eye which will react under certain lights. This allows your vet to see the contours of your cat’s eye and to check for ulcers or other injury.
Treatment of Eye Discharge in Cats
Treatment of eye discharge in your cat will depend on the cause of the symptoms and the underlying condition. In the case of conjunctivitis, your vet may prescribe prescription drops or eye ointment to help fight off infection. They may also prescribe oral medications to help support your cat and fight system-wide infection.
Eye Flushes may also be performed at your vet’s office to clear the eye of any debris or foreign material. In many cases, this procedure can be done while your cat is awake and alert. Depending on the location and severity of any foreign bodies, sedation may be required in order to completely eliminate the material from your cat’s eyes.
Recovery of Eye Discharge in Cats
Depending on the underlying condition, the prognosis for recovery from eye discharge is very good. Your cat will need supportive home care in order to alleviate symptoms as they heal. Regular cleaning of the eyes should also be performed in order to eliminate as much of the eye discharge as possible and help your cat be more comfortable. In cases of infection, it will be important to closely follow all veterinary instructions regarding drops or ointments as these conditions may recur if not completely healed.
Eye Discharge Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
We adopted two kittens, 3months old, several days ago. One kitten has developed a watery, swallowed eye a day ago. His eye is red, produces clear discharge that dries out into a crust. The kitten is active as before,plays and fights with his brother, and eats well.
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