Magnificent to look at, cats' eyes can also be very sensitive to infections and diseases. As a cat owner, it's important to know how to take good care of them.
Common eye infections and diseases in cats
All cats, but especially young cats, can find themselves faced with a bout of the flu, or often a case of coryza (inflammation in the mucus membrane of the nose). This virus can lead to conjunctivitis in your feline. The conjunctiva, which lines the inside of the eyelids and covers the white part of the eye becomes abnormally reddish due to inflammation. This in turn becomes itchy.
Without the ability to know that scratching can cause further problems, you'll often find cats will indulge the itch (although we can understand why). Trouble is, they might just accidentally scratch their eye with their paw, inviting further bacteria into the eye area. With a case of coryza, fluid secreted from the eye changes to become greenish, and much like human conjunctivitis, builds up during sleep making it difficult for a cat to open its eyes upon waking.
Viral infections (such as coryza, herpesviruses, caliciviridae and chlamydophila) are the first symptoms of conjunctivitis. But some allergies may also cause conjunctivitis, including allergies to pollens and dust.
Treating eye infections and diseases in cats
Conjunctivitis is very painful, whether for a kitten or cat. Getting treatment from your vet is absolutely necessary. Some complications may also appear, such as corneal ulcer that only a vet will be able to identify during an eye examination. Corneal ulcers are quite common in cases of a herpesviruses infection and will require additional medication. Untreated, your cat can lose its eyesight.
For this reason, always ensure you consult your vet if you notice your cat scratching abnormally around their eyes and/or blinking rapidly.
A cat's third eyelid
Cats have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane. It draws across the eye to ensure additional protection from dust and pollutants, and so that the eye area remains moist. It is translucent meaning cats are able to see through it.
The third eyelid can be a useful protection mechanism for a cat, however it won't protect from everything. Foreign objects such as a spikelet or shard of wood, grass, or even glass, can still penetrate the membrane. If you notice a foreign object in your cat's eye, or they show obvious signs of eye discomfort, again, ensure you take your cat to the vet. Your vet will use anaesthetic eye drops, take out what's inside the eye, and complete an eye examination to make sure that the cornea is intact.
Eyelids can also be attractive to wasps and their stings. Again, immediate medical attention will be required in order to relieve your cat from pain and future complications.
Genetics and morphology
Some cat breeds, such as Persians, have more difficulty releasing protective tears due to the shape of their faces. This is because the lacrimal canal linking the eye to the nostril is very narrow. Thus, tears tend to flow and accumulate on and around the area where bacteria can gather. It's important to wipe away your Persian's tears everyday with an appropriate eye solution to avoid infections. Your vet will be able to recommend a suitable product to you.
Photo credit : Yummypets