By Heather Brookshire, DVM, DAVCO
We see a lot of dogs at our practice, but we give equal time to our feline patients too! Cats can develop a number of ocular conditions, and we thought it would be helpful to outline some of the common eye issues in cats and how we treat them.
To start, let’s look at one of the most prevalent causes of ocular disease in cats—Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1). Common and highly contagious, this viral upper respiratory infection in cats is spread by oral, nasal and conjunctival routes. Most cats are exposed to FHV-1 from their mothers during the first few weeks of life. The virus directly infects and damages the epithelial lining of the upper respiratory tract, as well as the ocular surface and surrounding tissues.
The symptoms of upper respiratory infection can include: fever, lethargy, sneezing, nasal congestion and discharge, ocular discharge and conjunctivitis. Typically, these clinical signs only last for 2-3 weeks; however some cats become latently infected and periodically shed the virus throughout their life during times of stress or illness. Recurrent infections are often less severe than initial infections and may include only ocular signs such as conjunctivitis and corneal ulceration.
Once infected, symptoms can be treated with antibiotics and/or antiviral medications to ease symptoms. While many cases come under complete control within just a few days to weeks, some cases will ultimately require surgical correction, in addition to medical therapy.