Common Cat Eye InfectionsCats are not as susceptible to genetic eye issues as other species, like dogs. Most of the eye issues cats experience are caused by viruses, such as herpes and calici, meaning they are treatable and usually preventable. These are some of the most common causes of eye problems in cats.
Herpes/ RhinotracheitisThe herpes virus will affect the eyeball (cornea) and commonly causes ulcers. In rescues, herpes can kill the eye on a young kitten, making it look like it was born without one. If the eye is okay, scarring often occurs and it is unsightly and limits vision.
CalicivirusFeline calicivirus causes eye inflammation and discharge. Oral ulcers and upper respiratory infections are also common with calicivirus.
ChlamydiaChlamydia, also known as "pink eye," is an eye infection acquired from another cat and is often seen in show cats. This infection can be transmitted cat to cat or by casual human transfer after handling an infected cat. The resulting conjunctivitis does resemble human pink eye but is not the same cause. Topical tetracycline ophthalmic ointments are effective on chlamydia infection.
Treatment OptionsTreatment options for eye infections in cats are often topical. Terramycin ophthalmic ointment is usually effective in treating various eye infections, including chlamydia.
Doxycycline is used orally. It is especially ideal for use in a rescue cat that is hard to handle. In these cases, doxycycline is better choice than other antibiotics as the eye may not get treated topically several times a day. Doxycycline is also a good choice for cats that are not accepting eye medications because it has good levels in the tears. You can treat a cat and get help from the doxycycline in the tears at the same time.
Fluid therapy and nutrition is often forgotten in sick cats and is vital to fighting infection. Electrolytes in the water and hand feeding a high fat, high protein diet is best. If the cat's nose is stuffed up, flush it with a saline/lincomycin nose flush as you would with an upper respiratory infection to allow them to smell. Cats don't eat what they can't smell!
Don Bramlage, DVM, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
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