Conjunctivitis In Cats - Definitive Guide For Cat Owners

December 27, 2018

Conjunctivitis in cats is is a fairly common eye disorder among cats. Feline conjunctivitis refers to the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the thin pinkish membrane located near the globe and up to the edge of the cornea. When the moist tissues in this area are inflamed, the eye will normally become red, swollen and discharge fluid. Conjunctivitis may occur in one or both eyes.

Causes of conjunctivitis in cats

The main cause of conjunctivitis in cats can be attributed to infections such as bacteria and viral infections. Certain cat breeds such as the Himalayan cat, Persian cat and other longhaired breeds may be born with a feature called entropion which is a turning in the eyelids. This hereditary feature causes the eyelashes to constantly rub against the eyeball causing irritation of the cornea.

Below is a list of possible causes of conjunctivitis in cats.

  • Allergies to certain substances or objects such as plants or pollens.
  • Bacterial infections such as Feline Chlamydia and Feline Mycoplasma. Do note that the Feline Chlamydia is only specific to the cat species and not humans.
  • Congenital defects such as small or absence of tear ducts.
  • Foreign objects such as eyelash, grass seed or hair.
  • Injury or trauma to the eye.
  • Hereditary conditions such as entropion in certain cat breeds such as the Himalayan or Persian cat breeds.
  • Irritants such as dust, fumes, sand or smoke.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis which is inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva.
  • Viral infections with the most common being the Feline Herpsvirus-1 (FHV-1), Feline Calivrus and Feline Reovirus. Similarly to the Feline Chlamydia, the Feline Herpsvirus-1 (FHV-1 is only specific to the cat species and not humans.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis in cats

These symptoms may occur to one or both eyes. If you notice these symptoms in your cat, it is advisable to bring your pet to the vet for a check up as soon as possible.

  • Build up of fluid in the eye.
  • Build up of dry crust around the eyes.
  • Eye discharge that is clear and watery.
  • Eye discharge that may be green in color, contain mucus or pus which indicate a secondary bacterial infection.
  • Eye tissue is red and swollen.
  • Excessive blinking.
  • Persistent squinting
  • Signs of upper respiratory infection such as having discharge from nose or sneezing.

Diagnosis for feline conjunctivitis

Your vet will physically examine your cat to determine the real cause of conjunctivitis. The eyes will be examined closely to look for any signs of foreign objects lodge in the eyes and the type of discharge. Most of the time, your vet will be able to diagnose the cause based on the signs and symptoms display by your cat.

If non infectious causes are ruled out, further tests may be required in order for your vet to address the problem. These tests may include a conjunctival swab to collect culture for testings and fluorescein staining. Once the test results are out, your vet will be in a better position to prescribe proper treatment for your cat’s conjunctivitis.

Treatment for cats with conjunctivitis

Treatment for your cat’s conjunctivitis will depend on the cause. Your vet will prescribe the most appropriate treatment for your cat based on the diagnosis and the results of the tests being done. Most of the time, if it is due to infections, antiviral medications are often prescribed. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, antibodies will be given as well. If the cause is due to a foreign object, removing it will normally solve the problem. In serious cases, surgeries may be required.

Allergies – For allergies due to substances, topical ointment or drops may be given. Sometimes, anti-inflammatory medication may be given to reduce the allergic reaction.

Bacterial infections – Bacterial infections normally occur as a secondary infection. In these cases, antibodies and/or eye ointment or eye drops are often prescribed for treatment.

Viral infections -  Viral infections such as the Feline Herpsvirus-1 (FHV-1) can relapse. For mild symptoms, sometimes treatment may not be necessary. Or you will be given saline solutions to wash your cat’s  eyes. For more severe cases, antiviral medications are normally prescribed. Antibodies or eye ointment may be prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection is detected. Your vet may prescribe L-Lysine for your cat which is used  to suppress relapse.

Care for cats with conjunctivitis

Once the treatment is prescribed by your vet, you need to follow the treatment plan in full. Medications need to be given on schedule. If saline solutions are given, you need to bath your cat’s eyes at least three to four times a day depending on the treatment plan. The saline solutions are very useful in helping to relieve irritation as well as removing particles and crusts from the eye.

Your cat needs to be isolated if there are other cats or pets in the household. This is to prevent your cat from infecting other animals and pets.

Preventive measures

To prevent your cat from getting conjunctivitis again, it is advisable to limit exposure to other pets and animals. This will lower or reduce the risks of getting infected again. Vaccinations may also be given and have been proven to be very effective at preventing relapses. You can check with your vet for more details on the type of vaccinations available for your cat.

Also, one of the main triggers for relapse of conjunctivitis is stress. If your cat suffers from any stress related event in the future, it may cause a relapse of this condition. These flare ups will occur from time to time. You cannot prevent it from happening again. The only way is to manage it so the conjunctivitis remains mild and non threatening.

It is important to note that in certain cases whereby the causes are infectious, you cannot fully you’re your cat of conjunctivitis. Flare ups will occur when your cat falls ill or under duress. If that is the case, you can only prevent it from happening regularly by providing your cat with the proper vaccinations, a well balance diet and enough attention and care.


Image Credit
Photo by Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center in Lenexa, KSCC BY 2.0

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