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Common Eye Health Issues In Cats

Updated on March 12, 2015

Cats, like dogs or humans, can develop a range of different eye health issues. Some of these are a result of injury to the eye when hunting, fighting or playing while others are due to disease and hereditary conditions.

With major advancements in veterinary treatment options cat eye conditions, when diagnosed early, are more successfully treated today than ever. As a cat owner routinely checking your cat’s eyes is a simple habit to get into. This can be done at the weekly grooming time or once a week or so on a schedule.

What to Watch For

Carefully look at your cat’s eyes in natural light. Check to make sure the whites are white and not yellow or reddish in colour. The rims of the eyes should be a light pink but not white, red or a yellow colour.

The eyes themselves should be clear and bright and not look cloudy or hazy. The pupils should be equal in size to each other and there should be no crusty material in the corner of the eye or along the lower lid. There should also be no watery or teary discharge and no sign of the third eyelid, which will start at the inside corner of the eye and move down the length of the eye. It may be white, cream and light pink if normal or, if infection or damage is present, it can also be red.

The eyelids should not appear swollen or injured and cat should blink and move the eyes in tandem with each other. One eye functioning differently from the other eye should be cause for a call to the vet.

If the third eyelid is noticeable present and the cat has not just been startled from a deep sleep, talk to your vet immediately. It can be a sign of injury to the eyes, infections in the mouth or respiratory system or it can also be a nerve problem. Sudden weight loss, which may be a sign of a variety of health issues, can also cause the eyelid to be visible. Parasites, digestive problems and even some viruses may cause this noticeable symptom in what may otherwise initially appear to be a healthy cat.

Common Eye Issues

The most important thing to keep in mind is that a vet can diagnose an eye condition and prescribe the correct treatment. It is always the best option to get the right diagnosis first as treating the eye incorrectly may cause additional delays in healing and, in some cases, increase the risk of permanent loss of vision in one or both eyes.

Cataracts – just like people, cats can get cataracts. This is commonly seen as an opacity in the lens that can be caused by injury, aging and even diabetes in cats. There is a natural bluish haze that can form on the lens of elderly cats and this is not the same as cataracts. Cataracts cannot be treated but they can be removed if the cat has healthy eyes otherwise. An artificial lens is placed into the eye to correct the vision problem.

Conjunctivitis – cats with this infection will have a dark pink to red colour on the white surface of the eyeball and the lining of the eyelids. The eyes are often itchy and the cat will scratch and rub the head frequently. There is typically swelling to the eye area and the discharge is clear like tears. A thick discharge that gets crusty is known as purulent conjunctivitis and should be treated immediately by your vet. When it occurs in both eyes it may be a sign of a virus.

Tear Ducts – cats can develop blocked tear ducts or tear ducts that become overactive. This will result in tearing around the eyes and chronic clear discharge from the eyes without any associated swelling, itching or redness. This can be corrected with different surgical procedures that are highly effective.

Swollen eye– when one eye is swollen and the cat seems to be sensitive to touch on that side of the head suspect a trauma. Watch for any signs of discharge or blood around the eye and immediately seek veterinary care if any change is noted in the cat’s behaviour or if the condition seems to be getting worse.

Blindness – cats can go blind for a range of different reasons. This can include untreated viruses and infections in the eyes, damage or injury to the eyes as well as diseases such as retina disease.

If you suspect any type of eye injury or change contact your vet and schedule an appointment. A quick check can typically identify the issue and allow you to understand the best treatment options.

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