What are Eye Injuries?
Untreated eye injuries can greatly damage your cat’s eye, even leading to blindness in severe cases. If your cat is avoiding bright lights, keeping its eye closed, and squinting, it’s likely that the eye is injured. Seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect an eye injury.
An eye injury is caused by a foreign object that has either penetrated or fully punctured the eye. These injuries can be caused by play, fighting with other cats, and even projectiles like fireworks.
Symptoms of Eye Injuries in Cats
Eye injury symptoms tend to occur rapidly, increasing in intensity as the foreign object remains in the eye or the wound worsens. The following symptoms indicate that your cat’s eye is injured:
- Clouded cornea
- Visible blood in the eye
- Distorted pupils
- Visible foreign object in the eye
- Eye discharge
- Swelling or inflammation of the eye
- Pawing at the eye
- Penetrating: The wound or foreign object has entered the eye, but does not punctuate the cornea or sclera (the white of the eye).
- Perforating: The wound or foreign object has passed through the cat’s cornea or sclera. These typically are more serious injuries.
Causes of Eye Injuries in Cats
Cats possess complex vision systems that allow them to hunt at night and see objects clearly from yards away. Cats have also a third “eyelid,” a thick membrane that protects the eye from scratches and debris. Despite this, cats’ eyes are prone to injury. Causes of eye injury in cats include:
- Fights with other animals
- Scratches from leaves or branches
- Playing with objects in the home
- Car accidents
- Fireworks or other projectiles
Diagnosis of Eye Injuries in Cats
Injuries to the eye constitute a medical emergency. Only a veterinarian can diagnose an eye injury and recommend proper treatment. Even if the foreign object is visible, do not attempt to treat an eye injury at home. Doing so could risk further damage to your cat’s eye.
When you visit your veterinarian, give him or her an account of what happened, including when you first noticed the injury and what you believe may have caused it. Tell your veterinarian if you feel the injury is getting better or worse.
During the exam, the veterinarian will first look for the presence of a foreign object. If the object is visible, the diagnosis will be straightforward. However, if there isn’t a visible cause, your veterinarian may wish to rule out deeper injury, cornea ulcer, or bruising by conducting a full ocular examination. The veterinarian will use light to check your cat’s pupils, ensuring they are symmetrical and responding properly.
If natural causes are not responsible for the injury, your veterinarian may wish to examine the internal parts of your cat’s eye.
Treatment of Eye Injuries in Cats
Treatment for your cat’s eye injury will be recommended based on the severity of the injury and which part of the eye was affected. Penetrating injuries usually have a better chance of recovery than perforating injuries, and blunt traumas are more severe than sharp traumas to the eye.
Typically, if the injury is penetrating and has no opening, your veterinarian will suggest an Elizabethan collar to prevent your cat from further damaging the eye. Antibiotics or eye drops are used to ease inflammation and swelling. Corneal ulcers are often treated with antibiotic ointments.
Surgical repair will be required for perforating injuries, including corneal lacerations and full-thickness wounds. If the foreign object remains in the eye, surgery will be needed to remove it. In most cases, lacerated corneas due to foreign objects can be treated.
Vision loss is possible if the injury is deep within the eye. If your cat is struggling with light perception, there may be an injury to the lens or a hemorrhage in the vitreous, the gel-like structure that gives the eye its shape.
After surgery, your veterinarian will recommend antibiotics and pain relievers as needed. These medications will vary depending on the severity of the wound.
Recovery of Eye Injuries in Cats
Following surgery, monitor your cat to ensure the injury is healing properly. Note any changes to the eye, and contact your veterinarian if you believe the wound isn’t healing. If your cat has suffered vision loss due to the injury, you will have to help your pet cope with its new disability.
Most eye injuries in cats heal completely, allowing the cat to resume its normal activities. Recovery time largely depends on the type of injury and its severity. Be sure to administer all medications that your vet recommends, and remove any potential eye irritants from the cat’s reach.