How Do I Treat My Cat’s Eye Infection?

Symptoms and treatment of eye infections in cats.

Cat Eye Infection

There’s nothing worse than seeing your pet when he’s uncomfortable or in pain. And for your cat, pain and discomfort can happen if he has an eye infection.

Cat eye infections can be quite common, which makes knowing how to identify them all the more important.

And because cat eye infections can sometimes be very contagious, identifying and treating them quickly is crucial if you have more than one cat at home.

We reached out to Dr. Erica Unz, a registered feline veterinarian and founder of Meows & Purrs Mobile Feline Hospital, for more insight on why a cat eye infection occurs, how to treat it and when to call your veterinarian.

Why a cat eye infection occurs

One way your cat can get an eye infection is if he contracts feline herpesvirus (FHV-1), otherwise known in humans as pinkeye. You can prevent this disease by getting your cat vaccinated with the FVRCP vaccine, which protects against several viral diseases, including feline herpesvirus. Other possible causes for your cat’s eye discomfort include autoimmune disease, allergies, eye trauma and feline leukemia.

Symptoms of eye infections in cats

First, looking at your cat's eyes regularly will help you identify a problem before it becomes an issue.

In a brightly lit room, try gently rolling your cat’s eyelid down with your fingers, and check to make sure the lining is pink and healthy. Look for any cloudiness in the eyeball, which can be a sign of infection, and make sure the area right around the eyeball itself is white.

If there’s one positive thing about a cat eye infection, it’s that the symptoms are pretty obvious.

“If your cat has a developing eye infection, you’ll notice redness or swelling of the conjunctiva (tissue surrounding the eye), asymmetrical pupils, excessive tearing or discharge, and squinting or holding the eye closed,” Dr. Unz told The Dodo. “If there is corneal damage, you may be able to notice color changes or cloudiness of the cornea as well.”

After you notice symptoms, it’s best to take your cat to his veterinarian for an official diagnosis and treatment plan.

Ways to treat your cat’s eye infection

While waiting for your appointment, it’s best to keep your cat indoors (as much as possible) and the affected area clean.

“Keep the eye and area around the eye clean using sterile eye wash, which you can purchase over the counter at any drug store,” Dr. Unz said. “Be sure you are using regular eye wash, as there are many varieties available.”

Then, gently apply the wash to the eye and wipe away any discharge around the eye with a soft paper towel or cotton rounds.

Warm compresses can also be placed gently on your cat’s eyes a few minutes at a time, several times a day to dilate tear ducts and encourage the flow of eye secretions.

When to call your veterinarian

As mentioned above, in the case of eye infections or injuries, seeing your veterinarian as soon as you notice any issues around your cat’s eye is the best course of action. Treatment of your cat’s eye infection will most likely depend on what is causing the discomfort.

“Eye conditions can become advanced in a short period of time and may become more challenging to treat the longer you wait,” Dr. Unz said.

Given that eye infections are so contagious and there can be more serious reasons as to why your cat’s eye is having problems, it’s best to get in to see your veterinarian as soon as you can.

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