Beyond 9 Lives: Cats Have Eye Problems Too

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Did you know that your cat can suffer from many of the same eye issues that affect you?

Eye infections caused by bacteria or viruses are very common in cats and can be painful. But with early detection, many eye issues are treatable. When left untreated, simple eye problems can worsen and damage the eye further. If you observe any abnormal eye symptoms, always contact your veterinarian immediately.

How can you tell if your cat has eye troubles?

The first step is to conduct a visual inspection of your cat’s eyes. They should be clear and bright, and the area around the eyeball should be white – be sure to note any reddish or irritation. Your kitty’s pupils should be equal in size. Ensure that the eyes are free from any discharge, especially yellowish or greenish mucous or any sort of thick crustiness. Check eyes for signs of inflammation or any swelling. If any of these symptoms are noted, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

What are the most common eye disorders that affect cats?

Conjunctivitis: As with “pinkeye”, one or both eyes will appear red and swollen, and there will often be an accompanying yellowish discharge.

Cataracts: With cataracts, opacity develops on the lens of the cat’s eye and interferes with transmission of light to the retina. This is fairly uncommon disorder and mostly affects older cats.

Glaucoma: The cornea becomes cloudy and the eye enlarges due to an increase in pressure in the eyeball. This also tends to affect elderly cats.

Keratitis: This occurs when the cat’s cornea becomes inflamed, causing the eye to look cloudy and watery.

Third eyelid protrusion: It occurs when your kitty’s third eyelid becomes visible or crosses the eye. It tends to indicate an underlying issue, such as Horner’s syndrome, an impact injury, diarrhea, worms or a virus.

Horner’s syndrome: This is a neurological disorder of the eye and the facial muscles. It is most often characterized by a drooping of the eyelid on the affected side, or a smaller or constricted pupil. The affected eye can often appear sunken, and the third eyelid might be red or protrude.

Feline herpes virus: This is a very common disease in cats, and many kittens contract it from their mothers. It is not serious, though some of the symptoms (watery eyes, increased sensitivity) can be irritating and should be treated.

Eye tumor: Cancer can occur in or around your cat’s eye.

Retinal disease: This occurs when the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye degenerate. A partial or total loss of vision loss can result.

Blocked tear ducts or overproduction or tears

Bacterial infections

Feline leukemia and the feline immunodeficiency virus: Watery eyes can be a side effect of these two diseases. Based on your cat’s risk factors, for example if your cat frequently goes outside, you may want to have them re-tested.

How are eye disorders diagnosed and treated?

As with any medical issue, your vet will examine your cat and run tests to make an accurate diagnosis. Your vet will likely look for signs of trauma or any foreign bodies lodged in the area by staining the eye to check for any ulceration. He or she will also examine the structure of the eye and look for signs of an upper respiratory infection. If he or she suspects a secondary underlying cause, your vet might recommend additional testing or blood work.

Many eye disorders though can be treated with prescription eye drops or ointments, and your vet will show you how to continue applying those at home.

Can eye problems be prevented?

Not always, but vigilance can help ensure that they don’t become serious. The best way to ensure that your cat’s eyes are healthy is to keep its vaccinations up to date and take it for regular checkups. Examining its eyes regularly at home will also help detect eye diseases early. It is very important that you consult your vet immediately if you notice anything wrong, because untreated eye conditions can lead to impaired vision and even blindness.

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