Corneal Ulcers in Cats

Corneal ulcers may affect felines of all breeds and ages. However, chronic ulcers are more frequently met in senior cats. The cause of ulcers may be various including injuries to the eyes, bacteria, viruses or fungi. Ulcers should be detected and treated as early as possible, as they may lead to blindness.

Causes of Corneal Ulcers in Cats

The cornea is made up of several layers that protect the eye. The cornea may be ulcerated due to several causes:

  • Injuries
  • A foreign object in the eye (i.e. dust or bugs)
  • Eye infections (viral, bacterial or fungal)

Any of the layers of the cornea may be ulcerated; typically, when deeper layers are affected, the outer layers are also affected.

Symptoms of Corneal Ulcer

The condition can be very painful so you may notice that your pet is pawing the eye area. The cat may also display a lethargic and hiding behavior (due to pain and also to light sensitivity).

Other symptoms of corneal ulcer include:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Discharges (transparent or more consistent)
  • Redness and irritation in the eye area
  • Squinting or frequent blinking
  • Secondary eye infections
  • Ocular spasms

Corneal Ulcer Diagnosis

The vet needs to examine the eyes of the cat and establish which layers are affected by ulcers. The vet may also need to examine a sample of the ocular discharges, to establish if the condition is caused by an infection and to find the nature of the infection (viral, bacterial or fungal).

Treatment for Corneal Ulcer

The vet will establish the cause of the corneal ulcer and determine the best course of treatment.

The treatment may include a few simple topical ointments or eye drops or may be as complex as surgery. The vet will focus on reducing the swelling and the irritation and on healing the infection. If there are additional complications, these need to be dealt with as well.

The topical ointments may contain antibiotics, if the infection is viral or bacterial. If the infection is fungal, the ointments should contain fungicides.

Should the cat have spasms he will get atropine to prevent temporary blindness.

During the treatment, the cat should be kept away from excessive light and sun.

If the ulcers are severe and the Descemet's membrane on the cornea is affected by ulcerations, surgery may be required. The vet may take a graft and place it on the ulcer to promote the healing of the tissues. The Descemet's membrane may rupture and this is a condition that requires immediate attention as it may cause permanent blindness.

If the corneal ulcers are not treated, they may evolve and cause permanent damage to the cornea or even blindness.

Prevent Corneal Ulcers

Certain ulcers cannot be prevented, but if your pet is prone to ulcers, you should administer eye drops on a daily basis, to keep his eye clean and remove any possible bacteria or fungi that may cause an infection and ulcers. Talk to your vet to recommend you eye drops that are suitable for daily use.