What is Eye Inflammation?
This disorder is incredibly common. In fact, most cats are likely to experience this mild condition. Certain breeds have a predisposition for developing conjunctivitis. The condition may also develop due to a bacterial infection or as a side effect of another disease.
Inflammation of the eyes in cats, also known as conjunctivitis, is the most common eye disorder in cats. Conjunctivitis occurs when the conjunctiva--a mucous membrane that protects the eyeballs and lines both sets of eyelids--becomes inflamed.
Symptoms of Eye Inflammation in Cats
While the condition is fairly common, you’ll want to ensure your cat receives immediate veterinary attention as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Excessive eye watering
- Presence of tears, especially if cloudy
- Yellow discharge from the eyes
- Red or swollen third eyelid
- Squinting or keeping eyes closed
- Excessive blinking
Causes of Eye Inflammation in Cats
Causes of conjunctivitis can be either infectious or noninfectious. Infectious causes may include bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Conjunctivitis is a common and often recurring side effect of the herpesvirus. Non-infectious causes may include allergic reaction, irritation due to the presence of foreign bodies, and exposure to chemicals, toxins, and certain plants. Conjunctivitis may also develop as a symptom of another disease such as cancer or tumors of the eye and feline leukemia.
All cats can develop conjunctivitis at some stage in their lives, although the disorder is most commonly seen among younger cats. Long-haired breeds have a higher chance of developing conjunctivitis. Cats that live in a multi-cat household also have a higher risk for conjunctivitis. The condition is not considered congenital (present from birth) or inheritable.
Diagnosis of Eye Inflammation in Cats
Your vet will perform an examination of the eye, looking particularly for foreign bodies or signs of injury. The vet will also ensure that the tear ducts are not blocked and there are no tumors present. The vet will then gauge your cat’s tear production as well as eye pressure.
Your vet may use a variety of diagnostic tests, including a corneal stain, scrapings of the conjunctival tissue, and, in some cases, eye biopsies. If the conjunctivitis is a suspected symptom of another disease, your vet may also take a blood test.
Treatment will usually take place following the diagnosis.
Treatment of Eye Inflammation in Cats
In many mild cases of conjunctivitis that have no infectious cause, the condition may clear up on its own. However, it’s unwise to delay veterinary treatment based on this fact, as the conjunctivitis may be a symptom of another, more serious condition.
The treatment method for conjunctivitis will depend on whether or not there is an underlying disease or infection causing it. Treatment usually takes anywhere from two to three weeks.
Antibiotics, whether administered by mouth or in eye drops, are generally effective for treating infectious causes of conjunctivitis. For herpesvirus, the vet may prescribe a topical medication, usually an ointment, in addition to antibiotics. There is no cure for the herpesvirus, and conjunctivitis caused by the virus is likely to come back; however, these treatments will help to manage symptoms when they appear.
Symptom of Disease
The recommended treatment course will vary depending on which disease is causing conjunctivitis. In many cases where the immune system is weak or suppressed as a result of the underlying disease, the vet will prescribe immune stimulants in addition to other treatments to manage symptoms.
Conjunctivitis resulting from an allergic reaction will typically require topical treatments. Corticosteroid creams and drops are usually effective at reducing the symptoms of conjunctivitis. Your vet may prescribe additional medication to combat the reaction. It is very important that you use only corticosteroid creams prescribed by your vet as opposed to corticosteroid creams made for human use.
For cases of conjunctivitis that have no identifiable cause, the vet may prescribe a general antibiotic medication in addition to anti-inflammatory drugs. These medications can be in capsule or topical form. In some severe cases, an injection may be required. Your vet will decide a course of treatment based on your cat’s specific needs.
Recovery of Eye Inflammation in Cats
Your cat’s prognosis will depend on the cause of the condition. In most cats, conjunctivitis will clear up with proper treatment. As with most antibiotic treatments, you may see symptoms start to disappear before the recommended treatment time is up. However, it is imperative that you continue administering the medication for the entire duration of the prescribed treatment period. Failure to do so may cause an aggressive recurrence.
If you’ve ever tried to administer eye drops or ointments to your cat, you know this can be tricky. The eye drops prescribed for conjunctivitis often require frequent administration, up to 6 times per day. You may find it easier to deliver these medications if you have another person to help you keep your cat still. If you are unsure, ask your vet to show you how to administer the medication.