Diagnosing Cat Conjunctivitis

Cat conjunctivitis is a chronic problem for many cats, and can stem from a number of different causes. Also known as feline pink eye, it is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, a tissue that lines the eyelids.

Causes of Feline Conjunctivitis

An infection of the conjunctiva can stem from many different reasons. Some of these include:

  • Scratches or foreign objects lodged in the eye
  • Irritants such as chemicals
  • Small/absent tear ducts
  • Facial conformation
  • Feline Herpes
  • Chlamydia
  • Mycoplasma infections
  • Allergies
  • Corneal ulcer

An eye infection due to a scratch or irritant is often known as acute conjunctivitis. These are very easy to treat and often disappear as quickly as they have appeared. Other causes, however, such as immune-related diseases like the feline herpes virus and panleukemia can result in cat eye problems that are much more difficult to treat and may recur. A proper diagnosis of the cause of the cat's conjunctivitis may include culture tests or even blood tests.

Symptoms of Feline Pink Eye

Though the symptoms may vary depending on the cause, there are a few typical symptoms that appear invariably in each case. These include:

  • Discharge from the eye (weeping)
  • Severe redness of the conjunctiva
  • Closed or partially closed eye
  • A swollen appearance

The discharge will often help determine the cause. Consistency, color and even odor will vary. For example, thick yellow to green discharge is often caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. This is due to the presence of dead white blood cells, and this "pus" will sometimes have a foul odor. Clear or watery discharge is usually the result of allergies or an irritant.

Treatment of Cat Conjunctivitis

Depending on the cause, there are several types of treatment.

The most common is a topical antibiotic cream. Sometimes eye drops will cure the problem if the inflammation is due to an irritant or foreign object in the eye. You can also bathe the eye in a fresh saline solution.

Sometimes cat will require a local injection to treat the infection. This treatment, however, is usually saved for very difficult and severe cases of conjunctivitis that would normally require a very large amount of topical cream or eye drops to cure.

Conjunctivitis not caused by irritants or a simple bacterial infection may require oral medication. Chlamydia is treated this way, as well as Herpes-related conjunctivitis.

Nutritional support is also becoming more popular. A somewhat unexplainable solution known as "Willard Water" can be fed to the cat as a substitute for regular water. It is available in most pet stores. Including extra antioxidants in the cat's diet can also help prevent recurring infections.

Feline conjunctivitis can be a mysterious condition, and occasionally a certain treatment will make the condition worse instead of better. In this instance, you should stop treatment and call your vet, as the inflammation may be the result of a more serious illness.

As cats are less susceptible to eye problems than other animals, conjunctivitis should be looked at with caution, and test should be given to ensure the cause is not a serious problem such as an immune-related disease. Even if the cause is simple, conjunctivitis is painful and should be treated immediately.