Untreated feline abscess of the eye

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Due to the enormous amount of bacteria that reside in the average cat's mouth, an abscess commonly develops at the site of cat bites after fights. Abscesses also can form in the space behind the cat's eye if the eye itself becomes wounded and infected.

Untreated feline abscess of the eye have the potential to cause life-threatening symptoms, and cats should receive veterinary treatment as soon as possible.

What is an Abscess?

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An abscess is essentially a sealed pocket of bacteria or pus that develops inside an infected wound during the healing process. Though most commonly formed in wounds resulting from cat fights, abscesses can develop though tooth, sinus and systemic infections. When a wound becomes infected, the cat's body sends a large number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, to the wound site. The bacteria and neutrophils bind together as the wound seals over, leading to a painful, swollen abscess. The pus inside an abscess must drain or else the cat will begin to experience symptoms such as fever and lack of appetite.

How Eye Abscesses are Formed

Eye abscesses in felines, called retrobulbar abscesses, form differently than standard would abscesses. Any foreign matter introduced into feline's eye socket or retrobulbar cavity has the potential to cause an abscess simply by irritating the sensitive tissues. Eye abscesses and eye infections most commonly appear during times of intense drought, due to the sharp, brittle nature of dried plant material. When a cat chews on dried grass or plant matter, like many cats are wont to do, the sharper pieces stand a greater chance of causing irritation if they migrate from the cat's mouth and nasal passages to its eye cavity.

Symptoms of Untreated Abscess

Symptoms of untreated retrobulbar abscess often occur suddenly. Any bulging or swelling of a cat's eye should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. These symptoms should never be taken lightly, as they can lead to a permanent reduction or loss of sight if left alone. Most commonly, cats present with symptoms of fever and loss of appetite when suffering from any untreated absces. Eye leakage and tearing while eating also point toward untreated eye abscess. The cat also may experience pain when attempting to open its mouth.

Veterinary Diagnosis

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Only a qualified veterinarian can officially diagnose a cat with retrobulbar abscess. A diagnosis often will be made through a physical examination with no need for blood work or urinalysis. During the examination, the veterinarian will perform a test called a fluorescein staining, which checks for ulceration. Eye pressure and tenderness also will be checked, as well as the mouth and nose. If the untreated abscess has swollen badly enough, the cat may need to undergo anaesthesia so that the physical examination is not too painful.

Treatment and Lasting Effects

Upon diagnosis by a veterinarian, retrobulbar abscesses usually respond well to treatment. The goal of eye abscess treatment is to first drain away the pus, which will decrease the swelling and pressure. Veterinarians prescribe both topical cream antibiotics and oral antibiotics for the treatment of abscesses, usually in conjunction. As the cat's owner applies the antibiotic regime, mild cases should show improvement within days. In severe cases, the eye may require surgery in order to provide a drainage channel for built-up pus, in which the veterinary surgeon will open a path into the eye socket via the roof of the cat's mouth.