Causes of Eye Infections in Cats
Cat eye infections can be divided into two basic categories: infectious conditions and non-infectious conditions.
Some of the most common infectious conditions that can cause eye infections can include bacterial infections, viral infections, feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, and FVR (feline viral rhinotracheitis).
Several non-infectious conditions can lead to eye infections in cats such as allergies, hereditary conditions, tumors, eye trauma, foreign body stuck in the eye, and autoimmune disease.
Any eye condition your cat may develop is best seen by veterinary ophthalmology professionals.
Symptoms of Cat Eye Infections
If your cat is suffering from an eye infection you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- The whites of your cat's eye may turn red
- Discharge from the eye (clear, yellow, or green)
- Winking or squinting
- The third eyelid may be protruding and covering part of the irritated eye
- Rubbing or pawing at one or both eyes
It's important to note that your cat's symptoms may affect one or both eyes. Often a cat will only show symptoms in one eye but the infection then spreads to the healthy eye.
Cat colds or upper respiratory infections (URIs) frequently cause eye irritation in cats. Symptoms of URIs in cats include typical human cold symptoms such as sneezing or nasal discharge.
If your cat is displaying any of the above symptoms it's time for a trip to the veterinarian. It is essential to treat eye infections early to prevent the infection from spreading to the other eye, becoming more severe, or being spread to other pets in your household or neighborhood.
Treating Eye Infections in Cats
Your vet will determine the best treatment for your cat's eye infection based on the results of the examination and your cat's overall health.
If the eye infection is the primary concern (no underlying health issues are detected) your vet may recommend a topical treatment for your cat's eye such as Terramycin® or Vetropolycin®.
If however, your cat's eye infection is due to an underlying condition such as FeLV or Calicivirus the underlying condition may be the main focus of the treatment. Treatments for underlying conditions will depend upon the nature of the illness but may include oral antibiotics, immune boosters, or other treatments.
Antibiotics Used to Treat Eye Infections in Cats
Below are some of the antibiotic treatments commonly prescribed for eye infections in cats.
- Terramycin® Ophthalmic Ointment: Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride-Terramycin eye ointment is a broad spectrum treatment for eye infections in cats suffering from a range of eye conditions from conjunctivitis, keratitis, and pink eye, to corneal ulcers, blepharitis and bacterial inflammatory conditions that may occur secondary to other infectious diseases.
- Vetropolycin® Veterinary Ophthalmic Ointment - Bacitracin-Neomycin-Polymyxin: Vetropolycin® is a triple antibiotic ointment often prescribed by vets for the treatment of bacterial infections of the eyelid and conjunctiva in cats.
- Tetracycline Ophthalmic Ointment: Tetracycline eye ointment may be prescribed by your vet if your cat is suffering from Chlamydophila or Mycoplasma conjunctivitis
- Azithromycin Oral Antibiotic: Azithromycin may be prescribed for the treatment of Chlamydophila or Mycoplasma conjunctivitis as well as underlying bacterial infections such as respiratory tract infections, and Bartonella which may affect your cat's eyes.
- Topical Corticosteroid Ointment or Drops: Corticosteroids are often prescribed to help stop eye inflammation. In cats, these drops and ointments are most commonly used to treat conjunctivitis, episcleritis, scleritis, pannus, and eosinophilic keratitis.
- L-lysine: L-lysine is an amino acid supplement used to help treat feline herpes virus infection in cats. Studies are ongoing as to the effectiveness of this product however there is anecdotal evidence that lysine may help to suppress the symptoms of the feline herpes virus.
- Interferon alpha-2b: Interferon alfa is an immunomodulator and antiviral used to treat viral diseases in cats such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or papillomatosis. Studies are ongoing regarding the effectiveness of this treatment but in some cases, your vet may feel this treatment is worth trying to help your cat fight infections.
Why Neosporin Should Not Be Used on Cats
Many human medications are toxic or otherwise dangerous for pets. This is especially true for cats since their compact size means that even the tiniest amounts of a dangerous substance can be life-threatening.
Neosporin is a topical antibiotic ointment that works very well on humans but is not recommended for cats. There have been reports of cats having severe anaphylactic reactions to the antibiotic ingredients in Neosporin's ophthalmic preparations which include neomycin and polymyxin B.
Only use treatments prescribed by your veterinarian to treat eye infections in your pet.
How Quickly Will Treatment Take
Once treatment begins, eye infections in cats typically clear up very quickly. Nonetheless, it is essential to continue treatment as per your vet's instructions even after your cat's symptoms have cleared up! Do not stop treatment until the end of the prescription period. Stopping your cat's antibiotic medication early could lead to a resurgence of the infection and make it harder to eliminate the infection.
If there is an underlying condition causing your cat's symptoms, the effectiveness and speed of the treatment will depend upon the nature of the underlying illness and your cat's overall health. Your veterinarian will be sure to provide you with a prognosis for your cat's recovery.