Cats are susceptible to eye problems as a result of viral diseases, bacterial infections or tumours. Two common conditions, conjunctivitis and keratitis, are frequently caused by the feline herpes virus, but can also the result of calicivirus, chlamydophila or even allergies. Other diseases to be aware of include Haws syndrome, uveitis and glaucoma. Many eye diseases in cats are easily treated with drops and oral medications. Untreated, infections and diseases can damage their eyes and may even lead to blindness.
Types of cat eye diseases include Haws syndrome, feline chlamydophila, eosinophilic keratitis, glaucoma and uveitis. In addition, diseases such as feline herpes and tumours can cause eye problems in cats.
Uveitis is inflammation of the coloured area of the eye. This disease is often caused by bacterial infections or other diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency virus, feline herpes virus or feline leukaemia. Worm larvae in the eyes can also cause uveitis. Conjunctivitis and keratitis can be caused by eye irritation from a foreign object, but are usually due to underlying bacterial or viral infections. Feline glaucoma may be the result of an underlying infection, cancer or any disorder that prevents fluid from draining, allowing pressure to build in the eye.
A much milder, less dangerous disorder, called Haws syndrome, is characterised by protrusion of the third eyelid. Cats can develop tumours on the eyelids or directly on the eye. Sometimes tumours can initially be mistaken for eye disease because they produce similar symptoms.
Redness, swelling, bulging eyes, discharge or cloudiness, or inflammation of the third eyelid are always symptoms that require a veterinarian's attention. Uveitis and keratitis symptoms include watery eyes, redness across the eye. Blood and/or pus may also be present. The symptoms of conjunctivitis primarily include inflammation of the eyelids and thick discharge. The main symptom of Haws syndrome is a protruding third eyelid. You'll notice the thin film covering the bottom quarter or half of the eye. Redness of the film is usually very minimal---unlike with keratitis, which causes protrusion, pain and redness. A bulging eye, with or without redness, is the main symptom of glaucoma. Cat eye tumour symptoms vary according to location of the tumour. Discharge is common, due to irritation of the eye. Tumours may or may not be visible in the early stage by the time symptoms become noticeable.
Prevention and Solution
Not all eye diseases are preventable; however, early vaccinations can prevent eye diseases related to herpes, chlamydophila and calicivirus and parasite control prevents eye diseases from migrating worm larvae.
Haws syndrome could go away without treatment; however, your veterinarian can prescribe eye medicine to clear this up more quickly. Your vet will treat many eye diseases, including uveitis, conjunctivitis and keratitis, with eye drops containing antibiotics and/or corticosteroids. Glaucoma often causes blindness if the pressure is not relieved. By the time symptoms appear, enough damage to cause vision loss, unfortunately, may have already occurred. Treatment includes eye drops and, in many cases, surgery. Treatment of eye tumours also includes surgery in many cases.
Many eye diseases are not only very painful for your cat, but also could lead to blindness if left untreated. All cats with eye discharge or swelling should be taken to a veterinarian. Before using any medicated drops or ointments in your cat's eyes, take your cat to a veterinarian for a correct diagnosis.