Cats do not suffer from as many eye problems as their canine friends but they do come across certain health issues from time to time. Conjunctivitis is one of these. This problem occurs when the membrane that covers the eyeballs become inflamed. The condition is not painful but it does cause a certain amount of discomfort. Thankfully, conjunctivitis in cats can be treated successfully.
Causes of Conjunctivitis in Cats
The eye disease is frequently caused by the FHV-1 virus, a type of herpes. It may also be caused by feline chlamydophila, reovirus or calicivirus. In some cases, the infection may have been brought about by exposure to allergens and irritants such as pollen, plants, fumes, dust or smoke. A foreign object that gets lodged in the eye such as an eyelash or hair may also lead to inflammation.
Conjunctivitis may affect one or both eyes. Bacterial and viral forms are also highly contagious, so care must be taken during handling and treatment.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis in Cats
Common symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- Red, inflamed conjunctiva (the area on the front of the eyeballs and the insides of the eyelids)
- Eye discharge that may be thick or watery and may contain pus or mucus
- Frequent blinking and constant squinting
- Rubbing or pawing at the infected eye
- Protrusion of the third eye
- Pet may also have an infection of the upper respiratory system
Diagnosis of Conjunctivitis in Cats
During a checkup, the veterinarian may inspect the pet’s infected eye/s to determine if there is a physical cause that can be remedied right away. Stray hair or an eyelash, for example, may be removed and the infected eye treated to bring immediate relief to the pet. The vet may also take a swab of the infected eye for testing to determine whether the infection was caused by bacteria or viruses. In some cases, a fluorescein stain dye might be used to determine if there are ulcerations present in the cornea.
Treatment of Conjunctivitis in Cats
The type of treatment the vet will recommend will depend on what caused the condition. In mild cases such as simple irritation, flushing the eye gently using a clean saline solution will help dislodge the foreign object. The vet may also remove larger objects using a sanitized pair of tweezers.
In case of bacterial infections, a topical antibiotic ointment or gel may be applied to kill the harmful microorganisms and allow the pet to heal. If the cause is viral, an antiviral eye ointment may be used.
If the cause of conjunctivitis is an allergy, anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed and the cause eliminated. If, for example, certain plants are discovered to be the cause of allergies, they may be removed from areas that the cat frequents in order to prevent direct contact.
Crusted discharges can also be softened using warm soaps and gentle eye flushes so the affected eye can be wiped away safely without hurting the pet.
An important note: if the cause of conjunctivitis is herpesvirus, the cat will have it for the rest of its life. After treatment, the virus will remain dormant and the cat will become a carrier. It will shed the virus from time to time, particularly during stressful situations. To prevent the infection from spreading, the pet should be kept in a stress-free environment.
Is home treatment possible for Conjunctivitis in Cats?
Mild cases where irritants are present may be successfully treated at home. Gentle removal of foreign objects such as dust, hair or pollen, for example, may be performed by the owner. Afterward, the affected eye may be wiped with a cotton ball soaked in a saline solution. Moderate or severe cases, however, should be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian.