What Causes Eye Infections in Cats?
Eye infections in cats have two primary causes: infectious conditions and non-infectious conditions.
Common Infectious Conditions That May Cause Eye Infections
- Bacterial infection of the eye
- Viral infection of the eye
- Feline herpesvirus
- Feline calicivirus
- Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR)
Common Non-Infectious Conditions that May Cause Eye Infections:
- Autoimmune disease
- Hereditary conditions
- Foreign body in eye (ie: grass seed or sand)
What are the symptoms of an eye infection?
Is your cat suffering from an eye infection? You may notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Rubbing or pawing at one or both eyes
- Squinting or winking
- Whites of your cat's eye may turn red
- The third eyelid may protrude and cover part of the irritated eye
- Clear, yellow or green discharge from the eye
Eye irritation is frequently caused by upper respiratory infections. Symptoms of URIs in cats (otherwise known as cat colds) include nasal discharge or sneezing.
If your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with our board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists as soon as possible to prevent the infection from becoming more severe, spreading to the other eye, or spreading to other pets in your household or community.
What are the most common treatments for eye infections in cats?
Your veterinarian will assess your cat's general health and determine the best treatment for your cat's eye infection. If the eye infection is the primary health issue, your vet may recommend a topical treatment such as Terramycin® or Vetropolycin® for your cat's eye.
That said, if an underlying condition such as Calicivirus or FeLV is causing your cat's eye condition, the underlying issue may be the focus of treatment. The nature of specific diseases and underlying health conditions will determine which treatment your vet recommends, but these may include immune boosters, oral antibiotics or other options.
Terramycin® Ophthalmic Ointment - Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride
- terramycin ophthalmic ointment is often prescribed for humans suffering from eye infections. Terramycin eye ointment is also a broad-spectrum treatment for 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 Ophthalimic Ointment - Bacitracin-Neomycin-Polymyxin
- Vetropolycin® is a triple antibiotic ointment often prescribed for cats to treat bacterial infections of the eyelid and conjunctiva.
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 cat's these drops and ointments are most commonly used to treat conjunctivitis, episcleritis, scleritis, pannus, and eosinophilic keratitis.
- 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 feline herpes virus.
- 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.
Is Neosporin safe for cats?
Many a pet owner has wondered, "Can Neosporin be used on cats?". Like many human medications, this topical antibiotic ointment works very well on humans for skin abrasions including burns, cuts and scrapes, but is not recommended for cats.
Several 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 could put your cat's life a risk.
There have been reports of cats having life-threatening anaphylactic reactions to the antibiotic ingredients in Neosporin's ophthalmic preparations which include neomycin and polymyxin B.
Is triple antibiotic ointment safe for cats?
Triple antibiotic ointment is another term for a product such as Neosporin. Triple antibiotic ointments still have some of the same active ingredients known to cause death in cats. Therefore, it's not safe to put on your cat's eyes. While it may be a generic brand or sold under a different brand name, it's still the same thing.
Contact your vet for appropriate treatments for your cat's eye infection.
How quickly will treatment work?
Once treatment begins, eye infections in cats typically clear up very quickly. That said, it is essential to continue treatment as per your veterinarian'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.
If there is an underlying condition causing your cat's symptoms, the effectiveness and speed of the treatment will depend upon the condition being treated and your cat's overall health. Your vet will be sure to provide you with a prognosis for your cat's recovery.
Veterinary Eye Care at Animal Eye Guys
Our board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists work with your pet's primary care vet to provide the most comprehensive eye care possible for your pet. Our team in South Florida provides specialized ophthalmological care, and can diagnose and treat virtually any eye infection or condition.
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.