The cornea, the transparent outer membrane that protects the front of a cat’s eyeball, is made up of three layers. When any of these layers is structurally damaged, such as by a hole or a scratch, it results in a condition known as a corneal ulcer. This painful condition can also be referred to as a corneal abrasion or erosion. Corneal ulcers in cats can vary in severity, depending on their depth and extent.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Corneal ulcers in cats cause significant discomfort. Some common symptoms to watch out for include:
- Rubbing the affected eye with their paw or against furniture or the floor
- Redness (which may be difficult to notice because the cat will squint their eye)
- Squinting or tightly shutting their eye
- Presence of eye discharge (may or may not be present)
Understanding the Causes
The primary cause of corneal ulcers in cats is trauma. This trauma can be in the form of a foreign body in the eye or other seemingly harmless incidents. Tear-production conditions and eyelid abnormalities can also contribute to the development of corneal ulcers in cats.
Diagnosis by Veterinarians
After a thorough physical examination, including close ophthalmic and neurological exams, veterinarians will conduct several tests to diagnose corneal ulcers in cats. These tests may include measuring tear production, checking intraocular pressure, and assessing tear test breakup time (the rate at which the tear film evaporates). The most effective test involves applying a special fluorescent dye to the cornea. The remaining dye, which glows neon green, helps visualize the corneal scar and confirm the presence of an ulcer.
For complex ulcers, advanced samples may be necessary for further examination.
The primary goals of treatment for corneal ulcers in cats are to prevent further damage to the cornea, relieve pain, and encourage healing while minimizing scarring. Veterinarians may recommend applying the cat’s own serum topically to promote healing. Concurrent infections will also be treated with appropriate medications. In some cases, surgery may be necessary, especially if the ulcer is extensive or unresponsive to treatment. Your primary care veterinarian may perform many of these procedures, but if needed, referral to a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended.
Recovery and Ongoing Management
Regular rechecks are vital for monitoring the progress of corneal ulcers in cats. If a simple ulcer does not show improvement within five days, it is considered complex, requiring intensified treatment. Veterinarians often schedule the first recheck within a shorter timeframe to ensure proper healing. Additional rechecks may be necessary to assess ongoing improvement.
Conclusion: Ensure Your Cat’s Eye Health
Corneal ulcers in cats are a painful eye condition that requires prompt and appropriate treatment. If you notice any potential symptoms or suspect your cat has a corneal ulcer, it is crucial to seek veterinary care immediately. By following the recommended treatment plan and staying vigilant during the recovery process, you can help your feline companion regain their eye health and well-being.