What do Unhealthy Cat Eyes Look Like?
Cat eye problems or unhealthy eyes look like discolorations of the white part of the eye, changes in the eyelid appearance, and the presence of eye discharge. Also, unhealthy eyes can have differently sized pupils (anisocoria).
There are many cat eye problems, but cat eye infections are among the most common. Pet parents should be familiar with the normal appearance of their cats’ eyes. That way, they will easily spot the presence of eye disorders.
What are Common Eye Problems for Cats?
The eight most common cat eye problems are:
- Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye): Inflammation of the thin mucous membrane (conjunctiva) that lines the inner surface of a cat’s eyelids and coats the outer surface of the eyeball.
- Cataracts: The clear lens develops a cloudy appearance that interferes with the ability of light to reach the retina and can cause vision loss (more common in older cats).
- Keratitis (Corneal Inflammation): Chronic, inflammation of the cornea in which the surface of the eye gets a pink, white, or chalky appearance.
- Uveitis: Inflammation of one or more of the structures that make up the uvea (the iris, ciliary body, and choroid).
- Glaucoma: Disease in which the intraocular pressure increases due to excess production of ocular water or inadequate drainage
- Blepharitis: Swollen eyelids that affect one or both eyes and cause irritation, swelling, and itching.
- Corneal Ulcerations: Damage to the cornea that results in impaired vision and increased light sensitivity.
- Entropion: Eyelid abnormality (the eyelid is turned inward) common in flat-faced cats such as Himalayans and Persians.
Are Cat Eye Problems Fatal?
Yes, cat eye problems can be fatal.
In severe cases, cat eye problems can spread and cause severe upper respiratory infections. It can also result in serious consequences and cause irreversible damage to the eye structures, resulting in impairment of the cat’s vision or even blindness.
Also, some bacterial and viral infections causing eye conditions in cats cause systemic problems and have a negative impact on the overall pet’s health.
What Causes Eye Problems in Cats?
Eye problems in cats can be caused by genetics, allergens, problems with tear production, and pathogens (bacteria and viruses). Here is a closer look at the causes of eye disorders in cats:
- Genetics. Some cat breeds are predisposed to certain eyelid abnormalities, which can lead to eye issues if left untreated.
- Allergens. The presence of allergens in the air causes irritation flare-ups. Over time, this can lead to chronic eye inflammation.
- Tear Production Issues. Both excess and inadequate tear production and tear duct issues can result in eye problems.
- Pathogens. Cats are also prone to bacterial infections (Chlamydia felis and Mycoplasma spp.) and viral infections (Feline Leukemia Virus or FeLV, Feline Infectious Peritonitis or FIP, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV, and Feline Herpesvirus or FHV).
How Can I Treat My Cat’s Eye Problems?
The treatment of cat eye problems depends on the underlying cause. Here is a short overview of the most common causes, symptoms, and remedies for cat eye issues.
Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
- Causes: Infectious bacteria, fungi, and viruses like the feline herpes virus; Chlamydophila felis; Mycoplasma
- Symptoms: Inflammation of the conjunctiva; Excessive tearing; Abnormal discharge; Reddened conjunctival membranes
- Remedies: Broad-spectrum antibiotics and anti-inflammatories
- Causes: Damage to the lens; Metabolic diseases; Cancer; Infection; High blood pressure; Diabetes
- Symptoms: Hazy appearance in the eyes; Trouble going up and down stairs; Trouble finding their food bowl; Problems navigating around furniture that has been moved
- Remedies: The ideal treatment for cataracts is surgery. This surgery, which is performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist, involves breaking down and removing the cataract, then replacing the lens of the eye with an artificial lens.
Keratitis (Corneal Inflammation)
- Causes: Invasion of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, in the eye, conjunctival membrane, and general eye inflammation; Allergic reactions; The body’s reaction to parasites
- Symptoms: Raised pink, tan, white, or grey lesions on the surface of the cornea; Squinting; Inflamed or thickened third eyelid
- Remedies: Topical steroid medication but oral or injectible steroid medications may be used in severe cases.
Uveitis (Eye inflammation)
- Causes: Infections; Diabetes; High blood pressure; Toxins; Trauma to the eye; Eye tumors
- Symptoms: Eye pain; Squinting; Avoidance of bright lights; Keeping the affected eye closed; Cloudy appearance in the eye; Change in the color of the iris
- Remedies: Topical eye medication; Anti-infection treatment; Oral medications
- Causes: Inadequate drainage of aqueous fluid; Injury to the eye; Tumors; Anterior dislocation of the lens
- Symptoms: Eye pain; Watery eye discharge; Swelling or bulging of the eyeball; Blindness; Dilated pupil; Cloudy or bluish cornea
- Remedies: Analgesics; Beta-adrenergic blocking agents; Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
Blepharitis (Irritated Eyelids)
- Causes: Any irritation to the eyelid; Congenital abnormalities; Allergies; Infections; Tumors; Inflammatory disorders
- Symptoms: Red eyelid; Swollen eyelid; Squinting; Spastic blinking; Excessive scratching of the eye
- Remedies: Warm compress for 5-15 minutes several times per day; Removal of eye discharge; Surgery; Antibacterial treatment
- Causes: Scratches; Ingrown eyelash; Dirt; Exposure to chemicals; Viral or bacterial infections
- Symptoms: Inflammation of the tissue around the cornea; Seepage of discharge from the eye; Clouding of the cornea; Hypersensitivity to light
- Remedies: Anti-inflammatories; Pain reducers; Antibacterial treatments; Antifungal treatments
- Causes: Corneal ulcers; Perforations; Infections
- Symptoms: Eye discharge; Excessive tearing, blinking, and twitching; Squinting; Red, swollen eyes; Recurring eye infections; Corneal ulcers
- Remedies: Topical eye drops; Surgery
Will a Cat’s Eye Heal On Its Own?
Yes, in some cases, a cat’s eye problem can heal on its own.
However, this is not the recommended course of action. If your cat has an eye injury or is showing signs of an eye infection or disease, it is vital you seek vet attention right away to avoid lifelong consequences.
Are Cat Eye Problems Contagious to Humans?
No, cats cannot transmit eye problems to humans. However, if you have multiple cats, you can transfer the problem to other cats in the household.
How Long do Cat Eye Problems Last?
It depends on the injury or affliction. Something like a corneal abrasion will generally heal within 3-5 days if medication is used to prevent infection and relieve pain.
However, other conditions can last a lifetime. If an eye injury is left untreated, for instance, it can lead to blindness, from which the cat cannot recover.
How Can I Prevent Cat Eye Problems?
When it comes to cat eye problems, prevention is always the best route.
Get your cat in for yearly checkups and ensure they are up to date on their vaccinations. Avoid overcrowding cats with other cats and check their eyes frequently for redness, cloudiness, changes in color or shape, discharge, and sensitivity to light.