Eye infections are quite common in cats so every cat owner is bound to deal with some form of it. It is important that owners know how to recognize the signs of eye infections in their cats because they have to know when it is time to take the cat to the vet. Here is everything you have to know and the main things you should look out for.
What Causes Eye Infections in Cats?
There are many types of cat eye infections and each of them has its own pathology. However, the most common ones are caused by bacteria, viruses, allergies, or parasites. The most common bacterial suspects are Chlamydia and Mycoplasma, while the most common viral culprits are FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), Feline Herpesvirus, or Feline Calicivirus.
What Are the Main Types of Eye Infections in Cats?
Depending on the part of the eye that is affected and the pathological development, there are several types of eye infections in cats. Here are the main ones you should be aware of:
Conjunctivitis – this is commonly known as pink eye and it is the inflammation/infection of the conjunctiva – the pink membrane covering the inside of the cat’s eyeball as well as the inside of the inner eyelids. These become inflamed, so they will be swollen, red, and there is going to be some discharge present. These are usually caused by bacteria or viruses.
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Blepharitis – This is yet another very common type of eye infection that affects the cat’s eyelids. More specifically, it affects the muscular portion, the glands, the connective tissue, and even the outer skin. The pathology of blepharitis is more complex and it includes a wide variety of causes, from allergies to infections, tumors, and even congenital abnormalities (seen in Persian cats).
Stye – this is caused by the clogging of the sebaceous gland in the eyelid. Since the sebum can no longer be discharged onto the eyelid, it gathers up inside the gland and it forms a lump. These typically appear at the edges of the eyelids, close to the lashes. The lump is visible on the inner part of the eyelid. On the outer part of the eyelid, you can only see a lump that resembles a pimple or a boil and the area around it reddened (in white or light-colored cats). A stye can be complicated by a bacterial infection if left untreated.
Keratitis – this is an inflammation of the cornea, which is the clear outer layer of the front of the eyeball. If this occurs because of a scratch on the eye, then this is ulcerative keratitis (the trauma to the cornea has been complicated by a bacterial infection). There is also non-ulcerative keratitis and you can recognize it by a cloudy or watery appearance of the eye.
The Inflammation/ Infection of the third eyelid – Cats also have a third eyelid, which you should not see if the cat’s eyes are healthy. However, due to foreign bodies entering the eye or bacterial infections, the third eyelid could become visible. It will be a pinkish-red membrane at the inner corner of the eye, triangular in shape.
What Are the Symptoms of Eye Infection in Cats?
If your cat has an issue with its eyes, it is going to show you that it is in distress. Here are the main signs you want to watch out for:
- Your cat will be washing its eye excessively – you will see it reaching with its paws to clean its eyes.
- Your cat’s eye is not open all the way.
- Profuse tearing of the eyes.
- Excessive squinting or blinking – due to the discomfort caused by the inflammation, the cat will instinctively try to blink to clear up the irritant cause.
- There is discharge on your cat’s eye – this can be clear in inflammations or it can be a white or green milky color if there is an infection.
- *When the discharge dries up, it will create a crust, which makes it difficult for your cat to open its eyes. In eye infections, when the crust is thicker, and it can make it impossible for the cat to open its eyes.
- The white part of your cat’s eye becomes red.
- Specific symptoms – the presence of the lump in stye, the visible third eyelid when this becomes inflamed, or the cloudy appearance of the eye in keratitis.
How to Treat Cat Eye Infections
The first step in treating cat eye infections correctly is knowing the specific type of inflammation/infection and identifying the cause. You should take your cat to your veterinarian if you notice any of the symptoms listed above. Most cat eye infections have a rapid development and they are most likely going to get worse in a short amount of time, so consider taking your cat to the doctor as soon as possible.
The vet will run tests on your cat to determine what is causing the infection. This is why you should not use any kind of antibiotic eye drops or gels on your cat before it gets a diagnosis. Using these may interfere with the tests and make it more difficult for your cat to get treatment.
What you can do before you take your cat to the doctor is to keep its eyes clean. Whether it is conjunctivitis or blepharitis, you can use normal saline solution to wipe the eye. At your local pharmacy, you can purchase saline solution in mono-doses which are made specifically for eye use.
You should also get sterile gauze or a fresh pack of cotton balls. Take the gauze or the cotton balls, put the saline solution on them enough to make them damp and wipe your cat’s eyes with them. You can do this several times a day to clear away any discharge.
Here’s a video of Amy putting eye drops in Ash’s eyes:
How to Treat Cat Eye Infections Caused by Bacteria
For most bacterial infections of the eye, your doctor will prescribe an eye cream with wide-spectrum antibiotics like Terramycin Ophthalmic Ointment, which has Oxytetracycline and Polymixin B Sulfate. This makes it efficient for infections caused by gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.
You will have to continue using the saline solution to keep your cat’s eye clean and you will administer the Terramycin ophthalmic ointment, 2-4 times a day. Your doctor will show you exactly how to apply the ointment correctly. The procedure is very simple and you will be able to apply it yourself without any difficulty.
Please note that allergic reactions to the antibiotics in the Terramycin may appear, so keep a close eye on your cat on the first day after you administer the ointment. If you see any swelling of the eyes, reddening of the face, or your cat having difficulty breathing, then you should contact your doctor immediately.
Aside from the topical antibiotic ointment, in some types of bacterial infections, your doctor may also prescribe some oral antibiotic. Some types of bacteria will not be cleared out entirely with local treatment, so a general treatment is also necessary.
Another thing you can do during the treatment is to wash your cat’s water and food bowls regularly and use a disinfectant cleaner in the house. Mop the floors and pay special attention to the areas where your cat spends time in the most.
Eye infections in cats are common, but if you know how to recognize the symptoms and take your cat to the vet, these should be cleared off quickly and efficiently. Has your cat ever had an eye infection? How did you treat it? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.
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