Eye Herpes in Cats

Eye herpes in cats is a very common eye infection that can be easily treated. However, if it’s left untreated, it can cause permanent damage, impaired vision and blindness. In extreme cases, it might necessitate the removal of the infected eye. Hence, it should be diagnosed and treated at the earliest.

Eye herpes in cats is a contagious infection that’s species specific and caused by the feline ocular herpes virus (FHV-1). Cats of all breeds and both sexes are likely to get infected and kittens are more likely to get infected with this virus.

Ocular Herpes in Cats

The pink part of the eye under the eyelids consists of the conjunctival membranes. These membranes also line the eyelids. Conjunctivitis is an infection and inflammation of the conjunctival membranes caused by the feline ocular herpes virus. This virus grows in those tissues of the body that are in contact with the environment such as the upper respiratory tract and the eyelids.

The conjunctival membranes redden and become dry and itchy as a result of the infection that can also spread to the cornea or the white part of the eye. The cornea becomes cloudy as a result of the infection and can even develop ulcers.

Symptoms of Feline Ocular Herpes

Feline ocular herpes symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the cornea

  • Clouding of the cornea

  • Ocular discharge
  • Nasal discharge
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Impaired vision
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Squinting
  • Blinking
  • Small or closed eye
  • Pain

Diagnosis of Feline Ocular Herpes

A range of tests are carried out to rule out any other cause for the eye condition and the veterinarian relies on a medical history, a physical exam and the exclusion of other conditions to identify feline ocular herpes. A cat with eye infection but no congenital deformity or injury would be diagnosed with ocular herpes and treated accordingly.

Treatment of Eye Herpes in Cats

Treatment is aimed at eliminating the signs of the infection and the pain associated with the infection. It is also aimed at limiting the extent of damage to the eye. Since there is no cure for ocular herpes, outbreaks of the condition are controlled with medication such as antibiotics to control secondary infections. Antivirals are prescribed if the cat is in good health and the cornea is involved.

Drops are also prescribed to increase lubrication of the eye and medications are prescribed to relieve pain. In cases where the infection cannot be controlled, surgery is performed to remove the infected eye.

Complications of Cat Eye Herpes

Repeated outbreaks of ocular herpes can cause scarring of the cornea and degeneration of the cornea that can lead to vision loss. Although more than 90 percent of cats are infected with FHV-1, most remain carriers. Cats with weakened immune systems, kittens and older pets are likely to have outbreaks of the infection. Kittens may also succumb to this infection if it’s left untreated. The virus is not contagious to humans.

Supplements added to your pet’s diet such as L-lysine, an amino acid, have been proven to limit the life cycle of the herpes virus and limit outbreaks of the infection. A stress free environment can also help prevent outbreaks.