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Feline Conjunctivitis: What All Cat Owners Should Know

by Dani
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Have you ever noticed your cat having some cloudy, yellow, or green discharge and their eye looking red and swollen? Your initial thought may have been, “Oh my, Fluffy has pink eye!” Hold on to your mittens for just a minute, fellow feline fanatic. What Fluffy may have is a medical condition called feline conjunctivitis, and here is what you should know about it.

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is a medical term to explain when the conjunctiva is inflamed. The conjunctiva is a thin, sensitive, mucous membrane that helps protect the eye and covers the inner eyelids, and protects a cat’s third eyelid. When it is not inflamed, it has a pale pink color and isn’t too visible, you probably wouldn’t even know it was there if the tissue wasn’t inflamed.

This image from VCA Hospitals gives you a closer look:

What causes feline conjunctivitis?

Feline conjunctivitis can be caused by an infection or by non-infectious materials such as a piece of dirt or an allergy. Infections can be a component of a virus or bacteria. Feline viruses such as Feline herpes virus and Feline calicivirus can cause conjunctivitis in a cat. Bacteria like Streptococci or Staphylococci can cause the conjunctiva to become inflamed as well.

A condition called entropion can also cause conjunctivitis in a cat. Entropion is when the lower eyelids are actually turned inward towards the eyeball. Here, the eyelashes can cause quite a bit of irritation to the conjunctiva. Hereditary conditions and tumors can also cause feline conjunctivitis.

Symptoms of feline conjunctivitis

A cat with conjunctivitis will have discharge coming from their eye or it may appear watery. The tissue surrounding the eye will look red and swollen. It may be so swollen the eye will close. A cat may also want to squint the affected eye due to pain or sensitivity to light.

What to do about feline conjunctivitis

If you notice your cat having these symptoms, you should call your veterinarian for an appointment. Once at the veterinarian’s office, give a detailed history of your cat’s lifestyle and vaccine history. This is especially important since viruses that can cause feline conjunctivitis can spread from cat to cat and be prevented with vaccines.

Your vet will want to thoroughly examine your cat’s eye to ensure there are no objects trapped under the eyelid and ensure the tear ducts are not occluded. A Flurosein Stain may also be done to test for any scratches on the cornea of the eye itself, called eye ulcers. This is important information the veterinarian needs in choosing the right eye medication to treat the problem. Depending on how your cat is dealing with the issue, they may need to wear a cone-of-shame until the conjunctiva has healed.

After a course of treatment is chosen to best suit your cat, it is important to follow the directions just as the veterinarian has prescribed them. Also, make sure to schedule a follow-up appointment with the veterinarian after the course of medications is completed, just to make sure your cat is healed and back to normal.

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