Dry Eye Syndrome in Cats
Dry eye syndrome is a medical condition caused by a lack of tear production that results in inflammation of the outer layer of the eye, the cornea, and the surrounding tissues. Tears are necessary to keep the cornea moist and to remove debris from the eye. A cat’s lacrimal gland and third eyelid gland produce a film of tears that is a mixture of mucous, water, oils, and fats. Dry eye syndrome reduces the ability of these glands to produce enough tears, resulting in uncomfortable, chronic dry eyes.
Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome
The cause of dry eye syndrome can vary based on any underlying medical conditions or traumatic events that the cat's eye experiences. Some common causes of dry eye syndrome in cats include:
- Viral infections
- Bacterial Infections
- Immune diseases
- Central nervous system disorder
- Radiation beam hitting the eye (during radiograph/radiation therapy)
Signs of Dry Eye Syndrome in Cats
If your cat is suffering from dry eye syndrome, you may notice some of the following signs:
- Excessive squinting
- Excessive blinking
- Swelling/redness around the eye
- Discharge from the eye
- Impaired vision/blindness
- Cloudiness of the cornea
- Dull appearance of the eyes
- Elevation of the third eyelid
Diagnosing Dry Eye Syndrome
Your vet will perform a physical examination of your cat, including a comprehensive eye exam. During the exam, let your vet know of any symptoms you have seen and any recent trauma that could have led to the condition.
A culture of the tear film may be performed on the eye's outer layer, as secondary infections are common in severe cases of dry eye.
Tests used to diagnose this condition can include:
- Ophthalmic exam: A series of tests that obtain data on your cat's vision and eye health.
- Aqueous fluid sample: The collection of watery fluid produced by the aqueous humor. This agent carries proteins that keep a cat's eye moist. At times, it also falls prey to harmful bacteria.
- Fluorescein eye stain: The vet puts orange dye (fluorescein) into your cat's eye and with blue light, looks for cornea damage.
- Schirmer's tear test: The placement of paper strips in your cat's eyes to detect dryness or tear production.
Treating Dry Eye Syndrome in Cats
The treatment for dry eye syndrome in cats can vary based on the underlying cause. Mild cases may be able to be treated by a family vet. Severe cases are best handled by a veterinary ophthalmologist who can provide the proper medication or perform surgery if necessary.Common treatments include:
- Antibiotic eye ointment: The vet may prescribe this substance to treat a bacterial infection.
- Eye lubricant: Liquid drops or an ointment, prescribed to hydrate your cat's eyes.
- Topical corticosteroid: A cream used to reduce inflammation.
- Parotid duct transposition: Through a surgical procedure, the vet reroutes the aqueous ducts and allows saliva to replace tears.
All treatment options for dry eye syndrome will require a follow-up appointment(s) with your vet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.