What you should know about eye infections in cats and kittens
Sight plays an important role in the life of every feline, and for good reason, too. Sure, they also rely on their sense of smell and their sense of hearing, but sight is important especially for outdoor felines that hunt at night. If you’ve ended up here, you might have the suspicion that your cat or kitten has an eye infection. But before you go into a panic, let’s get one thing straight. Not everything that seems an infection is one.
Kitten eye infections can be mistaken by irritations and inflammations and the other way around, and this applies to adults, too. Let’s look at several things that you should know before rushing to the vet — and by this, we don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t take your pet to the vet clinic every time you suspect that something is wrong.
What causes eye infections in cats?
Some of the common culprits for eye infections in cats and kittens are the following:
- External and internal parasites
- Fungal infections
It’s very hard to tell which one of these is at the root of the problem if you don’t take your cat to the vet. Keep in mind that your cat can be allergic to things that might not have even crossed your mind, such as pollen dust, mold, cigarette smoke, and a variety of things that can exist in her living environment and that could trigger allergic reactions.
Kittens are more exposed to eye infections, and sometimes, these can be transmitted from the mother to the little ones. Unhygienic living circumstances can be a contributing factor, as well.
Symptoms and types
As you might expect, the clinical signs of any disease largely depend on the organ affected, and also on the specific component of that organ that doesn’t function properly. It can be hard to read about the anatomy of the eye if you have no medical knowledge or you just don’t have enough experience to understand the jargon. In this section, we’ll try our best to describe some of the common types of eye infections that affect cats, and we’ll try to keep it as simple as possible so that you can understand what we mean.
Both humans and animals can suffer from this type of infection. Known as pink eye, conjunctivitis can affect one or both eyes or can begin in one and then be transmitted to the other. While the inflammation can endanger your cat’s eyesight, especially when it is not treated, it is less severe compared to some of the other issues we’ll highlight below.
Because it affects a somewhat external component of the eye, usually conjunctivitis can be treated with ease. Once it is diagnosed, your vet is likely to prescribe cat eye infection drops and the symptoms (usually consisting of redness and itchiness of the conjunctiva) will subside in a matter of up to a week. If they don’t, you have to take your cat to the vet’s again.
The symptom that characterizes this eye problem consists of clouding or fading. While it can be caused by an infection, it can be seen among senior cats, and also among senior humans. You’ll be happy to know that there are some types of medication that could slow down the progress, but many times, this disease has no cat eye infection treatment.
Humans don’t have a third eye (or the third eyelid), but cats and dogs do. In cats, it’s mostly discernible when your cat has, for example, just woken up and she opens her eyes and for a fraction of a second, you see the third eyelid instead of your cat’s eye. That specific layer can be affected by an infection – it’s prone to anything from bacteria to viruses, and unfortunately, some types of cancer can also develop in that location.
Aside from the situation we’ve described where your cat just woke up or is sleepy, you shouldn’t be able to see the third eye. In a cat with healthy eye vision, it stays hidden all the time. Albino cats are more genetically predisposed to developing this problem. Contact your vet if you see that the third eyelid has become noticeable.
Another eye infection characterized by cloudiness, glaucoma is considered an emergency as it is basically caused by an increase in blood pressure in the eyeball. It can be the outcome of a tumor, infection, inflammatory disorders, as well as trauma. Some of the symptoms you can notice range from redness and pain to the typical cloudiness also encountered in cataracts, but usually, glaucoma has a manifestation where you actually notice that one of your cat’s eyes is bigger than the other.
Because hyper-acute and acute forms of glaucoma can actually put your cat’s life in danger, we urge you to take him or her to the vet as soon as you notice any difference in terms of size between one eye and the other. In some cases, your feline buddy might even require surgery.
FHV-1 (Feline Herpesvirus)
One disease for which you’ll never going to be able to find a cat infection home remedy is this one – it is an infectious disease caused by a virus. It is highly recommended that you vaccinate your cat against Herpesvirus, although there are two virus sub-genres that can affect our feline companions, and the FHV-1 isn’t included in some vaccination plans. Have a talk with your vet to find out more.
Feline Herpesvirus affects a cat’s nose and eye areas to the extent that the cat loses her sense of smell and her appetite, develops fever, and sometimes, even loses her eyesight completely. It can be a deadly disease, and that is why vaccination is of utmost importance. Some of the cat eye infection pictures that describe this disease can be absolutely frightening, and since prevention is always worth a pound of cure, vaccination is the right way of making sure that your cat never has to go through this ordeal.
If you have no idea what part of your cat’s eye has been affected or you don’t know how to make the difference between a medical condition that needs treatment right away and one that shouldn’t have you go into a panic, here are some general signs of an eye infection that you should be on the lookout for.
- Eye discharge
- Redness in and around the eyes
- A tendency to clean the eyes over and over again
- Any modification pertaining to the size of the eye (when compared to the other)
- Problematic vision
Diagnosis and treatment
As you might expect, treating a cat’s eye infection largely depends on the diagnosis, so the vet might have to use a series of tests to discover just what medical condition your pet is suffering from. For example, in cases where there’s a suspicion that glaucoma is the problem, the vet might measure your cat’s eye pressure. For corneal ulcers, he or she might use fluorescein.
Depending on its severity, the nature of the infectious agent that has caused the disease, as well as its symptoms and for how long it’s been progressing, a cat eye infection can be solved either thanks to systemic or local treatments or your cat might need eye surgery. Feline Herpesvirus infections can be deadly, and the cat remains a virus carrier for the rest of her life – that’s why vaccination is necessary.
Cat eye infection treatment at home
You might be disappointed to know that there isn’t a wide range of cat eye infection treatment over the counter options that you can get, at least not any that can contain antibiotics or a very effective anti-inflammatory substance. You can, however, get mild solutions that can be used for cleaning your cat’s eyes, which is what you should do if you’re the pet parent of a Persian cat, for example.
Using cat eye infection drops can be truly challenging because your feline buddy is definitely not going to thank you for it. The vet could prescribe drops or an ointment and in my personal experience, using the second is a little easier than trying to use the drops.
The bottom line
The truth is that eye infections can be caused by a variety of germs from bacteria and viruses to fungi, but also by allergies that trigger inflammation and lower your cat’s ability to deal with the potential aggression of an infectious agent. If you didn’t understand that sentence, in short: it doesn’t matter what the eye infection is caused by, it can happen to any cat regardless of age, health status, gender, or anything else.
Viral diseases can be prevented thanks to vaccination, and we strongly recommend vaccinating your cat against Feline Herpesvirus. If you notice any of the symptoms we’ve detailed above, take your feline companion to the vet as soon as you can (and right away if you notice that one eye is bigger than the other).
We hope that this article has been useful. Leave your comments below if you’ve had to deal with a cat eye infection in the past. Tell us about your experience — we can all learn from each other.
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