When you gaze into your cats eyes don’t just admire the color. Feline sore eyes happen. They are vulnerable to injury and disease. While most ocular problems can be remedied with medication or surgery, early diagnosis is often a key factor. Stay on the alert for signs of eye disease.
Good house cat care involves looking for cloudiness, redness, and squinting. Also note any discharge or vision problems. If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the vet immediately. Some eye problems will resolve on their own but others are serious and require timely treatment.
To check for eye damage your vet will examine your pet’s eyes through an ophthalmoscope. The scope will usually reveal if the eye’s outer surface (cornea) is scratched or if there is inflammation, ulceration, or cloudiness in tissues within the eye. Your vet may also administer a few drops of a special stain which reveals corneal ulcers under ultraviolet light. For serious or difficult to diagnose problems, you vet may refer you to a veterinary specialist in ophthalmology.
Many eye problems start with irritation of the cornea. Sometimes, the vet can solve the problem by flushing the eye to remove foreign matter. But if the cornea is scratched…as often happens when a cat is clawed in the eye…the area may become infected and develop a corneal ulcer or an inflammatory condition called keratitis. Vets usually treat these conditions with topical eye ointments or drops.
A very common cause of feline sore eyes is eye problems resulting from feline herpes virus. Herpes virus infection is best known for causing the respiratory disease rhinotracheitis, but the virus can also attack the cornea and the conjunctiva (the inside surface of the eyelids and the white of the eye), leading to conjunctivitis.
Choosing the right treatment for conjunctivitis can be tricky because
many cases are caused by agents other than herpes virus, such as chlamydia…a bacterium. So your vet may recommend first running a polymerase chain reaction
(PCR) to verify herpes infection. And if the culprit is herpes virus,
you may have to treat your cat several times during her lifetime to
maintain good cat eye health.
The problem is, herpes virus doesn’t go away. It stays latent…usually in the nerves of the eye…and then at times of stress the virus particles are shed again and cause conjunctivitis and upper respiratory infection. But prompt treatment will usually keep these herpes flare-ups from causing any lasting damage.
Feline sore eyes can be a more serious eye problem like inflammation of the uvea…the eye’s vascular (blood –vessel) layer, including the iris, ciliary body, and choroid tissues. Some cases of uveitis stem from infection by Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), and toxoplasmosis.
But many other cases of feline sore eyes have an unknown cause. Veterinarians usually treat uveitis with anti-inflammatory drugs, but unfortunately, the treatment isn’t always successful.
For certain eye problems…such as entropion, a congenital defect wherein the eyelids fold under…surgery is the answer. Surgery can also cure a corneal sequestrum…an island of dead corneal cells that forms in some breeds with prominent eyes. Of course, there are a few cases where medication and/or surgery fail to save a cat’s sight.
But even in these cases, the outlook is fairly bright. Cats that have lost their sight can navigate quite well by using their ears, nose and whiskers. But remember to keep a blind cat indoors at all times…and don’t rearrange the furniture.