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Kitten & Cat Conjunctivitis

Pink Eye & Your Cat

Does your cat or kitten have puffy, watery eyes? It could be conjunctivitis (pink eye). Conjunctivitis affects your cat's vision and can be contagious! Today our Somerset County emergency vets discuss the causes, signs and symptoms of cat conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis In Cats - Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis is a common problem in cats and kittens that affects both the eyes and surrounding pink tissues (conjunctiva). The conjunctiva is a mucous membrane that covers a cat's eyeball and lines their eyelids. Cats also have a third eyelid (nictitating membrane) located in the eye's inner corner that is also covered by conjunctiva that is not usually visible in healthy cats. One of the telltale signs of conjunctivitis in cats is the conjunctival membranes becoming reddened and swollen in one or both eyes. 

Signs That Your Cat or Kitten May Have Conjunctivitis

Some of the most common cat conjunctivitis symptoms include:

  • Increased redness and swelling around the eye
  • Squinting, keeping eye shut, excessive blinking
  • White or yellow eye discharge, excessive eye watering (the area around eyes will look wet or dirty)
  • Rubbing or pawing at affected eye or eyes (may rub on furniture or carpet to seek relief from inflammation)
  • Sneezing and other respiratory symptoms (infectious type of conjunctivitis)
  • Redness and Swelling

If your cat or kitten develops these symptoms, contact your veterinarian to have them examined and treated as soon as possible. 

Causes Of Conjunctivitis

Cat conjunctivitis causes fall into two main categories: infectious type and non-infectious type. Although the symptoms for both types are more or less the same, the underlying causes behind each type vary. 

Infectious Conjunctivitis In Cats

Viruses such as feline herpesvirus type-1 (a.k.a. feline viral rhinotracheitis or FVR) and feline calicivirus are illnesses that can cause conjunctivitis in cats.

Bacteria are also a cause of infectious conjunctivitis in cats; Chlamydophila felis, Streptococci and Staphylococci, and Mycoplasma are all capable of triggering conjunctivitis and is contagious among cats. 

Non-Infectious Conjunctivitis In Cats 

Irritants like mold, smoke, scented air fresheners, or even dust can be irritating to a cat or kitten's eyes and cause conjunctivitis.

Allergies are thought to be a potential cause of conjunctivitis in many cats, but particular allergens can be difficult to identify (or avoid, once discovered).

Genetics could play a role in a proclivity to developing conjunctivitis; some long-haired cat breeds like Persians and Himalayans can be born with a condition called entropion (turning-in of the eyelids). The eyelashes rub against the eyeball or foreign bodies like dust or sand can get trapped in the eyelids, potentially leading to non-infectious conjunctivitis.  Conjunctivitis is a also common symptom of eye tumors.

Diagnosis Of Conjunctivitis In Cats 

A full physical examination will be performed by your vet in order to identify the presence of conjunctivitis, and potential causes or co-occurring eye, respiratory, or other underlying medical conditions.

Your vet may use an ophthalmoscope to more closely examine your cat's eye or eyes, and several diagnostic tests will likely be recommended to ensure there are no other eye problems that need to be addressed before starting treatment.

Treatment Of Conjunctivitis In Cats 

Depending on the cause of conjunctivitis in your feline friend, your veterinarian will need to treat underlying conditions and/or strengthen your cat's immune system, treat infections and inflammation with steroids, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medication. 

Regardless of which cat conjunctivitis treatment your vet prescribes, it is imperative that the full course of medication(s) is administered. Neglecting to administer all doses of your cat's medications as prescribed can lead to a relapse or reinfection that becomes more challenging to treat.

At home, gently wiping the affected eye or eyes with a clean warm, wet cloth may also help alleviate discomfort and help to clean the area. Be careful not to use the same cloth or section of cloth on both eyes, as this can spread or worsen the infection. 

Many of the treatments for conjunctivitis in cats require an ointment or drops to be applied to the cat's eyes. As you can imagine this can be a challenge. Some cats react badly to having medication smeared or dripped into their eyes, but many tolerate the process without a fuss. 

Administering Eye Medications 

To successfully treat your cat's eye infection, it's necessary to regularly and frequently apply the prescribed medication – which often comes in a form that needs to be applied directly to a cat or kitten's eyes. Most medicated eye drops will need to be given to your pet 3 – 6 times a day at the beginning of their treatment (ointment might not require as frequent an application, but might be harder to apply to your pet's eyes. 

If possible, have another person assist with eye medication administration. One person to hold and soothe the cat, and the other to carefully administer the medication. It is highly recommended that you ask your veterinarian for a demonstration of the proper technique while at your vet visit. 

Whether your cat has been diagnosed with infectious or non-infectious conjunctivitis, early detection and proper treatment can help to stave off many future problems, including damage to the eye and blindness.

Prevention Of Conjunctivitis In Cats

If your kitty has been diagnosed with the infectious type of conjunctivitis, they are more prone to relapses in the future. Keeping a clean environment, especially in a multi-cat household, is important to stopping the spread or re-introduction of conjunctivitis.

  • Separate infected cats from healthy cats to decrease the likelihood of cross-infection
  • Give infected cats vet-recommended immunity-boosting supplements
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after interacting with an infected cat; it is not infectious to humans but we can pass feline conjunctivitis between cats

Your veterinary team will work with you to ensure that your feline friend is receiving the care, treatment and support that they need to maintain their eye and overall health. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

Do your cat's eyes look painful, irritated or goopy? If your vet's office is closed and your kitty needs the care of an after-hours vet contact AnimERge. Our Somerset County emergency vets are here 24/7 to care for your cat whenever they need us.

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