Eye infections are more or less common in cats, but due to their hygienic nature, these medical problems are a bit rarer compared to how often they show up in other species. However, the self-grooming procedure that every cat tends to every day can actually make matters worse if there is any inflammation in the cat’s eye. Plus, a cat can accidentally spread the infection from one eye to the other.
In this article, we’ll have a look at what an eye infection is, the types that cats can suffer from, how they are diagnosed and treated, and what you can do to make sure that your cat’s vision is in top shape for as long as possible.
What causes an eye infection in our feline friends?
The typical pathogens that cause eye infections in humans and the rest of mammals that exist in the world affect our cats, too. This means that an eye infection can be caused by a bacterium, a virus, a parasite, protozoa, or even fungi.
However, eye infections are often the results of irritation or inflammation that can be developed because of exposure to contaminants, harsh chemical substances such as those in cleaning products, dust and debris, and a variety of such things.
Therefore, if the cat’s immune system isn’t on par and the eye membrane is the most convenient entryway that can be used by a pathogen, the cat will end up suffering from an eye infection.
What types of eye infections can affect our cats?
Conjunctivitis is by far the most common type of eye infection. It’s actually defined as the inflammation of the eye tissue named conjunctiva, and it can be caused by irritants, not just by actual pathogens. If a cat develops it, she will have the pink membrane lining the eyelids red rather than pink, and visibly irritated and swollen.
Blepharitis is another type of infection that affects our feline buddies. In this case, the actual eyelids are affected, and they are often considerably inflamed than usual.
Keratitis is the inflammation and infection of the cornea. A somewhat trivial eye infection such as conjunctivitis can eventually lead to keratitis if it is left untreated for a long time.
Stye is an infection of the eyelid’s sebaceous gland.
Uveitis is the inflammation and infection of the uvea, meaning the vascular layer composed of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid.
It’s difficult to say just which clinical signs a cat is going to suffer from. If you suspect that your feline buddy might have an eye infection, the symptoms could vary depending on the exact anatomical part of the eye that has been affected. The most common type of infection is conjunctivitis, but the others shouldn’t be overruled, either.
If a cat has an eye infection, she could be showing the following:
- Constant pawing at the eye, winking, and eye rubbing
- The whites of the eye might have become red
- A visible third eyelid
- Cloudy eye or modifications in terms of color
- Frequent sneezing or nasal discharge
- Crusts around the eye
- Eye discharge — clear, yellow, or green
Which cats are more exposed to eye infections?
First of all, if you have been a cat parent for quite some time, it’s quite likely that you might have noticed translucent eye discharge in one of your cat’s eyes at one point or the other. These things happen, and if your cat gets some mild conjunctivitis, it will almost always resolve on its own.
Cats can develop eye infections because of the pathogens that we have mentioned, but also because they have a weaker immune system. Like in humans and all other animals, the most exposed categories to any disease, because they have a less capable immune system, are kittens and senior cats.
If a healthy cat comes in contact with an infected cat that has Feline Herpesvirus 1, Calicivirus, Mycoplasma, or Chlamydia, she can get infected, too. Cats that live in shelters or those that have recently experienced a degree of stress (such as you moving house, for example) have a less capable immune system.
Cats who live outdoors or just those that are allowed to go out every day are also more exposed compared to indoor cats. If you pet an unknown cat outside, wash your hands when you get home, especially before petting your own feline friend.
Diagnosis and treatment
The cause of the infection has to be discovered for the treatment to be the correct one. This is often done by collecting a sample of the discharge and growing it into a culture. There are lots of other diagnostic tests that the vet can use to see whether your cat is suffering from a viral or bacterial disease or anything else.
In some cases, the vet can place an orange dye (fluorescein eye strain) into the cat’s eye so as to see foreign bodies or ulcers.
Treating eye infections depends on the etiology of the disease. Antibiotics will work only if the pathogen is a bacterium. Antiviral medication can be administered so as to prevent the eye infection from spreading along with a bacterial infection.
There are several ways in which the treatment can be given to the cat. An ointment or eye droppers are preferred, but the cat could also receive systemic treatment, depending on the severity of the infection. This means that the vet might administer the first few injections, but you might also have to give your cat pills at home.
Before applying the drops or ointment, you have to make sure that your cat’s eyes are clean. You can use a cotton ball to get the excess eye discharge out of the way.
Since eye infections can be caused by viral diseases, too, the best way of preventing them would be to vaccinate your cat as per the schedule recommended by your veterinarian. This will ensure that your cat is not going to develop not only eye infections but also severe systemic ones.
Other than that, here are some easy steps you can take:
- Keep your house clean and allergen-free
- Avoid leaving your cat to come in contact with unknown cats, especially those that have eye discharge
- Don’t use harsh cleaning solutions — only pet-friendly sanitizers and cleaners
- Interact with your cat every day and assess his or her general health status
Most cats will have some sort of physiological discharge every day, which they remove on their own while self-grooming.
Get your cat to the vet if you notice that one of your cat’s eyes (or both) is swollen, the discharge is not clean (it’s dense-looking, yellowish or even greenish) and the eye seems to be red or cloudy on the whole. Being vigilant about your cat’s health makes it possible for medical issues to be resolved swiftly and easily!
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