Well-being

Cat Eye Infections, Drops and Ointments

Trent Webb

A healthy cat’s eyes should be clear, bright and free from dirt, discharge and inflammation. Cats’ eyes can also see into your soul, but that’s another matter! Luckily the eyes are one of the easiest elements to keep a check on and maintain.

Try to develop a habit of giving the cat’s eyes a once over at least weekly. That is consciously looking the cat straight in the face and asking yourself “are their eyes ok?” 99% of the time the answer will be “yes”. Then, every now and again you’ll spot something that needs your attention.

As a first step, always remove any obvious debris or give crusty eyes a quick clean as this will help reduce the risk of infection. It also looks better for you and feels better for them!

There are a few key signs to watch out for when it comes to the general condition of your cat’s eyes:

The first time you see something you don’t like either pop them to the vets, or at least note down the day/time you first spotted it (these things are surprisingly easy to forget) and if it persists get them looked at.

The 4 most common cat eye infections and conditions

Conjunctivitis. Not surprisingly this describes is the inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is simply the pink membrane that covers both the inner lining of the eyelid and the white of the eye. The vast majority of conjunctivitis cases are caused by allergies or by bacterial, fungal or viral infections. Where a cat suffers from recurrent or chronic conjunctivitis this is usually the result of herpes viral infections which can only be managed and never cured. It is also contagious to other cats.

Corneal ulceration. This occurs when the shiny surface of the cornea is scratched or damaged. Typical causes are fighting and thorny/spiny plants. Sadly you can’t really work around this one. Even mild-mannered cats can’t help it if they are punched and some cats seem oblivious to the dangers posed by cacti or roses.

Epiphora. This is where there is excess tear production, and can be caused by a number of factors such as allergies, entropion (turned in eyelids), infection, ulcers and conjunctivitis. As a consequence consequence you’ll notice the cat’s eye weeping constantly or the fur around the eye becoming stained.

Cataracts and cat glaucoma. Cataracts, which sees the lens inside the eye cloud over, quite commonly occurs in elderly cats, the other main cause is diabetes. Get your cat’s eyes checked by your vet, as they are best placed to make decide at what point the cataracts so impact the cat’s quality of life that the risks of surgery are worth taking.

Cat glaucoma occurs when too much pressure is exerted upon the interior of the eye as a result of a fluid build-up (essentially the failure to drain and in the early stages it is treated with specific eye drops, although in severe painful cases the eye may have to be removed.

How to clean your cat's eyes - a video by Frontline Pet Care

There are three key eye tests that vets will use to help to diagnose these conditions: fluorescein stain to identify the presence of corneal ulcers; Schirmer tear test to determine the level of tear production; and Ocular pressure test to detect cat glaucoma – that’s the puff of air none of us like at the opticians!

Most treatments for eye conditions involve administering drops or ointment. Drops are almost as tricky to administer to cats as they are to apply to yourself! Ointment isn’t much different, it just involves a rub rather than a blink.

8 steps to administer cat eye drops

Start with a wash and brush up. Remove any grot from around the eye with a cotton wool dipped in warm water.

Choose how you are going to hold them. The best options are sideways on your lap or on a table top. From personal experience the table is more of a two-man job, so if you can get a restraining assistant, do!

Check the bottle for dosage instructions and shake if necessary.

Open the bottle then hold the bottle in one hand, use the other to gently grip the cat’s head.

Tilt the cat’s head back and, to prevent blinking, use your fingers to keep the eyelids open. Don’t pull too hard. If you not sure the right amount of pressure, pull your own eye lids about to get a sense of how much is too much. Try to hold the bottle of drops close to the eye but don’t touch it. Touching runs the risk of contamination and causing damage if/when the cat wriggles.

Squeeze the drop briskly onto the eye and once the drops are in, release their head. Don’t try to squirt all the drops in one splurge as you’ll lose count. If you take too long between drops your cat will become uncomfortable as they desperately try to blink.

The drops will cause your cat to blink, which spreads the medication over the eye’s surface.

Really get the feel for the drops or ointments you're applying. It is all too easy to be distracted by a wriggling cat and to squirt out the lot in one single dose
John Campbell, Head Vet of Pet Drugs Online

7 steps to apply cat eye ointment

Again, start with a wash and brush up. Remove any muck from around the eye with a cotton wool dipped in warm water.

Choose how you are going to hold them. The best options are sideways on your lap or on a table top. From personal experience the table is more of a two-man job, so if you can get a restraining assistant, do!

Check the instructions on the tube for dosage. Take the top off the tube and make sure it is ready to “squeeze”.

Gently pull back upper and lower eyelids. Tilt the cat’s head back and, to prevent blinking, use your fingers to keep the eyelids open.

Hold the tube at the height of the lower eyelid, squeeze out the ointment onto it. If it is your first time using an ointment just accept that you might squirt too much out of the tube. That’s what it says in the rules.

Quickly massage upper and lower eyelids together to spread the medication. Rub don’t press!

Release their head and let your cat blink and shake their head.

This post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!