What is Eye Protrusion?
Protrusion of the eye in your cat can cause the eyeball to become severely dry and ulcerate or subject the eye to additional trauma, causing permanent damage to your cat’s vision. Because of the severity of the condition, if your cat is suffering symptoms of eye protrusion you should seek immediate veterinary care for the best chance at recovery and a positive outcome.
Eye protrusion in your cat is a serious condition in which the eyeball is displaced from the eye socket. The appearance of this condition can vary in severity and may be incredibly disturbing to a cat’s owner. Eye protrusion may be a sign of an underlying condition, an indication of trauma, or have a variety of other causes.
Symptoms of Eye Protrusion in Cats
All cases of eye protrusion will involve your cat’s eye extending beyond the normal opening of the socket in an abnormal position. Other symptoms of eye protrusion may include:
- Bulging of eyes
- Abnormal pupil size (either smaller or larger in appearance)
- Enlarged appearance of one eye over the other
- Severely red eyes
- Drying of eyes
- Ulceration of eyes due to lack of proper moisture process
- Rupture of eye
Causes of Eye Protrusion in Cats
Eye protrusion in your cat occurs when the eye extends past the bony structures of the eye socket and escapes its normal positioning. When this occurs, the eye sits in front of the eyelid and other protective eye features. This causes drying, ulceration, hemorrhaging and potential long-term damage to the eye of your cat. Causes of this condition may include:
- Traumatic injury to eye or face
- Shaking by the neck
- Infection of eye
- Rarely, certain eye tumors
Diagnosis of Eye Protrusion in Cats
While the observation of eye protrusion in your cat will be immediate to an experienced veterinarian, determining the underlying cause will be important to the treatment, as well as preventing future incidents. Diagnosis of the eye protrusion will begin with a thorough physical exam of your cat. Since traumatic injury is often the cause of this condition, your vet will also inspect your cat closely for any additional damage to limbs or bones. For this same reason, your vet may order x-ray images of your cat. This is especially true when the cause of the protrusion is unknown or the owner is unable to provide a history of the symptoms.
It will be important to the diagnostic process for you to provide your veterinarian with a complete physical and medical history of your cat. You should let your veterinarian know if your cat has been involved in an accident or suffered some other form of trauma or has access to outdoors where they could have suffered an injury without your knowledge. If your cat has been acting lethargic, ignoring food, or has other behavioral changes this may be a symptom of infection.
Finally, your vet will want to closely examine the eye for any damage to the surface or underlying tissues. This may involve the use of specialized ophthalmoscopes, sometimes in connection with fluorescein eye drops that highlight any trauma or ulceration to the surface of the eye.
Treatment of Eye Protrusion in Cats
Treatment of eye protrusion in your cat will focus initially on replacing the eye into the correct location if it has become entirely dislocated from the socket. This will be done in your veterinarian’s office in a surgical procedure in which your cat will have to undergo anesthesia. Sedation is necessary in order to determine your cat is as still as possible given the delicate nature of the procedure.
Once the eye is replaced into the socket, your vet will often administer drops or antibiotic ointment to prevent any infection. Your veterinarian will place several stitches in your cat’s eyelids. This will keep the eye shut temporarily and allow the injury to properly heal. Closing the eye temporarily also assists in keeping the eye in its proper location and prevents it from escaping the socket again during the healing process. Your cat will need to follow up with the vet several days to weeks later to have the stitches removed and allow the eye to reopen.
Recovery of Eye Protrusion in Cats
The prognosis for recovery for cats suffering from eye protrusion will depend on the underlying cause and whether there was any trauma to the nerves of the eye or surrounding tissues. In some cases, the eye will have permanent damage and eyesight will be limited. If the eye becomes non-functioning and there is damage to the tissues that produce tears, your vet may recommend removal of the eye in order to avoid infection from lack of lubrication of the eye, long term.
In general, cats will learn to adapt to limited vision. Cats with vision issues should be limited to the indoors only, as they are at risk for injury due to the inability to see oncoming vehicles or other objects. With proper care and management, your cat will have the same lifespan and quality of life as unaffected pets.