Did you know that cats can also suffer from eye infections, just like their humans? They can! In fact, eye problems are one of the most common reasons owners take their cats to the vet. Eye infections can be simple and easy to cure, with some infections clearing up on their own. Other infections can start out simple but can quickly turn into a serious problem if left untreated. Untreated eye infections can cause permanent damage to your kitty’s sight and could even lead to blindness or to her losing an eye.
If your cat seems to be having trouble with her eyes, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Most eye problems are not serious, but if she’s having trouble it’s a good idea to get it checked out as soon as possible.
Signs & Symptoms of a Cat Eye Infection
You may notice these symptoms if your cat’s developed an eye infection:
- Redness and swelling of the outer eyelid, third eye or conjunctiva
- Excessive tearing or discharge from the eyes
- Eyelids may develop a crust, which causes your kitty’s eye to stay shut
- Sensitivity to light
- Your cat seems to be in pain
- Squinting or blinking
- Change in the eye’s appearance (may be milky or cloudy, have red areas, etc.)
- Scratching or rubbing in and around her eyes
If you observe these symptoms in your cat, it’s time to schedule an appointment with the veterinarian. As we said above, eye infections can be self-limiting (curing), but sometimes need the help of additional treatment that only a vet can provide.
Never try to diagnose and treat any cat eye symptoms on your own
Causes of Cat Eye Infections
Eye infections in cats can be caused by several things including:
- Bacterial infections
- Feline Herpes Virus (FHV-1) and other viruses
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
- Injury or other trauma to the eye
- Fungal infections
- Corneal infection
Other causes can include underlying health issues such as genetic issues, tumors, glaucoma and more. This is why it’s important to take your precious fur baby to the vet if you notice she’s having eye problems.
Common Eye Infections in Cats
Some of the most common eye infections in cats include:
- Conjunctivitis: infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva (which is a pink mucus membrane that protects the eye).
- Uveitis: infection or inflammation of the uvea (the pigmented, vascular part of the eye—including the iris, the choroid, and ciliary body).
- Blepharitis: infection and/or inflammation of your kitty’s eyelid.
- Stye: just like humans, cats can develop styes, which are an infection of the sebaceous gland of the eyelid.
- Keratitis: corneal infection or inflammation.
These conditions can become serious health problems if left untreated. They require medical help as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage to your kitty’s eyes or even loss of her sight. Not only that, but conditions like conjunctivitis are very contagious to any other cats in your home or cats your fur baby may encounter on her walkabouts outside.
Vet Eye Exam
Your veterinarian will take your cat’s complete medical history and ask about the specific length of the current infection. They will determine if any medical tests are needed, possibly including:
- Taking corneal cells for culture
- Examination of cells under a microscope (cytology)
- Collection of a specimen of the discharge from your cat’s eye(s) for examination
- Fluorescein stain exam: a green dye is added to your cat’s eye. The dye sticks to her eye and will reveal any ulcerations or other problems. After the dye is applied, your vet will use a special blue light to shine in her eye to check for any problems the dye may reveal.
Your vet may order additional tests to rule out any other medical conditions that could be causing your kitty’s eye problems
Treatment of Cat Eye Infections
Once your vet has determined the cause of your cat’s eye infection, they’ll prescribe the necessary treatment. It’s extremely important to follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions to treat your fur baby’s infection. If you have any questions, it’s OK to ask them—no question is stupid when it comes to your cat’s health and doing the right thing to take care of her.
Your vet will explain how to administer the medication, the dosage schedule (how often to give your kitty the medicine) and any other treatment that may be necessary.
Most Common Treatments for Cat Eye Infection
Some of the most common treatments your vet may prescribe for your kitty’s eye infection may include:
- Cat eye drops antibiotic: medicated eye drops made especially for cats
- Antifungal medicines for fungal eye infections (applied topically)
- Anti-viral cream for a viral infection (applied topically)
The most commonly prescribed treatments for eye infections such as conjunctivitis include eye drops for conjunctivitis:
- Polysporin antibiotic eye drops
- Neo Poly Dex Opthalmic eye drops
- Polymynixin B eye drops
- Deramethasome corticosteroid eye drops (to fight inflammation)
Treatment with these medications is typically about seven days, but you should always follow your vet’s specific instructions for giving any medication for your cat. Follow the treatment plan exactly as laid out by your vet.
Side effects of cat eye drops antibiotic may include increased eye irritation, sneezing, coughing, increased mucus from eyes and/or even a runny nose. Your kitty could even experience difficulty breathing. Watch for these signs and report them as soon as possible to the vet.
Cat Eye Drops Over the Counter
What about cat eye drops over the counter for your fur baby? There are over the counter cat eye drops you can buy to treat mild cases of conjunctivitis; however, you should first know what’s causing your cat’s eye infection before trying to treat it on your own.
It’s best to take your kitty to the vet and get a proper diagnosis and then follow the vet’s guidance as to the infection should be treated. They may recommend an over the counter treatment, but it’s best to be sure before treating kitty yourself.
Eye Drops for Kittens
Kittens with an eye infection such as conjunctivitis may be prescribed the same eye drops that adult cats can use, but the dose may be slightly different. Eye drops for kittens are administered in the same way and can cause the same side effects as they do in adult kitties.
Human Eye Drops for Cats
What about human eye drops for cats? You may be tempted to first try human eye drops to treat your cat’s eye infection. While some eye drops made for humans are safe for cats, some contain preservatives and other chemicals that can cause further irritation or damage to your cat’s eyes.
It’s best to visit the vet and get their diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Your vet may say it’s OK to use a certain brand of human eye drops; however, it’s best to get their advice before giving your precious fur baby any medications made for humans.
How to Give Eye Drops to Your Cat
Just like us, cats don’t like anything being put into their eyes. Giving your cat eye drops can be quite challenging, but here are some tips to help you train her:
1. Wash your hands: before starting, thoroughly wash your hands to prevent the spread of infection.
2. Washing kitty’s face: your vet may suggest washing the area around your cat’s eyes before administering the eye drops. To do this, take a clean cloth and wet it with warm water, then gently use it to clean the area around your cat’s eyes. This is also a good way to remove irritating eye discharge.
3. Hold & position kitty: if you’re doing this on your own, place kitty in your lap. If your cat is irritable or scared, wrapping her in a blanket or towel, with only her head out, may help.
4. Hold her eye open: hold the eye drop bottle in your dominant hand—between your thumb and index fingers. Next, using your non-dominant hand, hold the affected eye open. To do this, you may find it helpful to put your fingers under your cat’s jaw (to support her head). Use the thumb on that hand to gently pull down the lower lid on the affected eye, which will create a small pouch for the eye drops.
5. Administer the eye drops: hold the eye drop bottle about ½ inch to 1 inch away from your cat’s eye, and squeeze the bottle for the number of drops your vet has prescribed.
6. Treating the second eye: follow steps 1-5 for treating the second eye, as directed by your veterinarian.
7. Wash hands again: be sure to wash your hands when you’re done applying the eye drops to your cat. This helps to stop the spread of infection to other cats/pets, and you’ll avoid leaving traces of the bacteria on surfaces that could re-infect your cat’s eyes.
When you’re finished, it’s a good idea to hold kitty on your lap for a few more minutes. This will help the eye drops to be absorbed into her eyes and keep her from rubbing them off. Eye drops may cause pain or irritation when first administered. Again, be sure to watch your cat for any side effects and report them to your vet as soon as possible if you’re worried.
Another good idea—give your cat a special treat when the treatment process is completed. Let her have some comfort and a treat for being a good kitty.
Prognosis of Cat Eye Infection
The prognosis for your cat’s eye infection is pretty good, because most bacterial eye infections respond well to treatment with antibiotic eye drops. However, this will vary depending on the length and severity of the infection and/or any other underlying health conditions that could be causing the problem.
Most cats heal pretty quickly and go on their way once treatment is completed. Your kitty will be back to her old self once she begins to feel better! If you think your cat as an eye infection or another eye condition, be sure to get her to the vet as soon as possible—you’ll help her stay healthy and to keep her sight.