Cat eye infections: causes and treatment

how do you treat cat eye infections?

You probably look into your cat’s striking blue, green, or amber eyes multiple times daily. As a result, you can tell pretty quickly when something is off.

If you notice redness or eye discharge in cats, an eye infection in your cat could be the culprit.

How can you tell if it’s an infection or something else, though? What should you do to restore your cat’s health?

This guide tells you everything you need to know about cat eye infections, from symptoms to recovery.

What are cat eye infections?

Cat eye infections often occur when a bacteria, viruses, or fungi enter the eye and trigger inflammation.

Cats can be diagnosed with several different forms of eye issues, including the following:

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis technically refers to inflammation of the conjunctiva – a thin layer of protective tissue which covers much of the eye. You may be familiar with conjunctivitis in humans – it is also known as pink eye. What you might not have realized, though, is that it can show up in cats as well.

As with humans, when conjunctivitis occurs in cats, the conjunctiva becomes red and inflamed. 

Causes of conjunctivitis in cats usually result from bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. Organisms like Chlamydophila felis and Mycoplasma spp. can cause conjunctivitis as well. 

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Feline Herpesvirus

Many cats carry the feline herpesvirus (or FHV-1) without their owners ever knowing. This virus can lay dormant for years, but activate at any time – particularly at times when the cat is feeling stressed.

There is no cure for FHV-1. However, veterinarians can prescribe eye drops, ointments, and other treatments to keep your cat comfortable and prevent future flare-ups.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is also known as keratitis or simply “dry eye”. This condition refers to the eyes producing inadequate amounts of lubrication, leading to them become too dry and then a host of issues related to this. Dry eye can occur as a primary issue (and it is not known specifically why this happens), or as a secondary problem on top of a primary issue such as bacterial infection or other form of conjunctivitis.

Chronic dry eye can also increase your cat’s risk of developing infections because tears have natural antibacterial properties and flush irritants from the eyes.

Symptoms of cat eye infections

If your cat is dealing with any of the issues listed above, they’ll likely display some or all of these symptoms:

  • Red or swollen whites of the eyes
  • Frequently blinking or rubbing the eyes 
  • Squinting often/reluctance to open the eyes
  • Frequently sneezing or coughing
  • White, yellow, or green eye discharge
  • The third eyelid covers part of the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Inflamed eyelids

Some of these symptoms, such as watery eyes or frequently rubbing them, can also be signs of allergies or the presence of irritants like hair in the eyes.

If you’re unsure if the issue is allergies or infection, look for symptoms like discharge or redness. You should also consult a veterinarian for an official diagnosis. 

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Causes of eye infections in cats

Cats can quickly develop eye infections if they come in contact with harmful foreign substances — such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi — and then rub their eyes.

If you have an older cat or one with a compromised immune system, they’re especially prone to infections. The same goes for cats that don’t eat a healthy diet or are frequently exposed to infected animals. 

How are cat eye infections diagnosed?

You must see a veterinarian to get an official diagnosis.

A veterinarian will examine your cat’s eyes and talk to you about the symptoms you’ve noticed. They may also take samples from the affected eye to run tests and determine if an infection is responsible for the cat’s discomfort.

Other standard tests include measuring tear production and the pressure within each of your cat’s eyes. Fluorescein dye can be used to stain the cornea and check for injuries or ulcers as well.

In some cases, vets also perform blood tests. These tests help them rule out any other health issues that might be contributing to your cat’s symptoms.

How to treat eye infections

If your veterinarian diagnoses your cat with an eye infection, they’ll likely prescribe medicated eye drops or ointments.

You’ll apply the drops or ointment to your cat’s eyes regularly. Be sure to continue the regimen for as long as the veterinarian tells you — don’t stop early just because the infection seems to have cleared up.

If your cat’s eye problems are the result of an underlying health condition — like an infection in another part of the body — your veterinarian might also prescribe oral antibiotics. These medications will clear up infections in all affected areas, including the eyes.

How do you administer eye medication?

Administering eye medication to a squirmy cat definitely isn’t an easy task. Here are some steps that can make the process as painless and stress-free as possible (for everyone involved):

  • Ask a partner, family member, or friend to help
  • Assign one person to hold the cat and the other to administer the medication
  • If using ointment, apply a blob between ¼ and ½ inch in size to each eye
  • Close the lids to spread the ointment across the entire eyeball
  • If using eye drops, hold the dropper close to the eye (don’t touch it) and administer the specific number of drops prescribed by the vet, aiming for the center of the eyeball

If you’re not confident administering eye ointment or eye drops, ask your vet for a tutorial. They can walk you through the process and offer some helpful pointers.

Recovery from cat pink eye

Most people start to see results in their cat’s eye infection within a few days of beginning treatment.

Remember, though, that you should still continue treatment for as long as the vet recommends. Otherwise, the infection could come back, and it will be harder to get rid of the second time around.

Does your cat have an eye infection?

Do you suspect that your cat has an eye infection? If so, you should reach out to a trained veterinarian as soon as possible.

A vet will examine your cat, prescribe medication, and give you a detailed treatment plan to help them start feeling better in no time.

At Cooper Pet Care, we make it easier and more affordable than ever for you to connect with a vet. Create an account and schedule an online appointment with a vet today.

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