My Cat Has a Cloudy Eye
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The eye is not considered a vital organ as a cat could still survive if they were lost. It is considered the most important sensory organ as they will have serious problems navigating their environment without it. Despite this, it may take some time before we know if our cat has vision problems. They are also so adept at using their other senses. Even with greatly reduced vision, a cat may be able to maneuver in their environment adequately. This is why it is so important we look for any symptoms of eye problems in cats. When we see one or more of our cat's eyes is cloudy, we should know it is possible they developed an eye issue.
At AnimalWised, we look at what happens when my cat has a cloudy eye. We look at the causes of cloudy eyes in cats, whether there is any treatment and how we can help them maintain their well-being.
Reasons for a cloudy eye in cats
Firstly, it is important to know if your cat has either one or both eyes which is cloudy. In most cases, you will see one eye start to cloud over. Within the same eye the cloudiness might be all over or localized to one part. Either way, cloudiness in the eye will likely spread until it covers first the whole eye and then the second one, but not always.
The main causes of a cat with a cloudy eye are:
- Feline chlamydiosis
- Feline eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis
Below we look at these individual causes in more detail. Before we do, you should it is vital you take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you see cloudiness in their eye. Whatever the cause of the cloudy eye, delaying diagnosis delays treatment which can seriously harm the prognosis. The result may be blindness in the cat.
1. Glaucoma in cats
Rather than referring to one specific disease, glaucoma refers to a set of pathologies which increase intraocular pressure (IOP). This will be accompanied by degeneration of the optic nerve of the affected eye. Aqueous humor is the name for one of the fluids in the eye which conditions the organ. Glaucoma affects the drainage of this fluid, causing accumulation in the anterior chamber of the eyeball. Increase in IOP is a result.
Feline glaucoma as a primary disease is rare. In these cases, the main cause is aqueous humor misdirection syndrome (AHMS). This is characterized by the aqueous humor entering the vitreous body (clear gel between lens and retina) through small tears in the anterior surface. It can accumulate in various ways, usually in small gaps between the lens and retina or in a diffuse manner. The result is displacement of the lens and, finally, obstruction of the aqueous humor drainage system. It is a disease which most commonly affects middle-aged and elderly felines. The average if about 12 years old anf females tend to be affected more than males.
Secondary glaucoma us much more common. It is generally associated with chronic uveitis, but can also be caused by intraocular neoplasms (inappropriate tissue buildup) and traumatic uveitis caused by lesions from scratches. It is essential we monitor signs of cat glaucoma to prevent it evolving further.
Symptoms of glaucoma in cats
Since its evolution is insidious and slow, the clinical signs are initially very subtle. Explanation of the clinical history (anamnesis) and physical examination are very important. Evident initial glaucoma symptoms are not usually a cloudy eye, but uveitis. This means the cat will have redness and pain in the eye, as well as sensitivity to light.
Symptoms which lead to suspicion of glaucoma are chronic pain which is progressive, this changes behavior, buphthalmia (pathological enlargement of the eye), anisocoria (asymmetric pupils) and ocular congestion. The latter is what causes the cloudy appearance of the cat's eye. If these symptoms have developed, it means the prognosis will be poor. Discharge and inflammation also usually occurs with cloudy eye in cats caused by glaucoma.
The diagnosis includes examination and the measurement of intraocular pressure. It is essential to perform these diagnostic tests in both eyes as both can be affected, even if only one eye appears cloudy.
Treatment of glaucoma in cats
As with all diseases, treatment will depend on the cause and should always be initiated by the veterinarian. There are a wide variety of medical treatments that facilitate the drainage of aqueous humor, such as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, beta-blockers, cholinergics, etc.. In some cases these treatments can be combined with each other. If this does not achieve clinical improvement, surgical treatment is usually an option.
2. Cataracts in cats
A cataract is formed when the crystalline lens (the lens which allows the cat to focus on objects) is partially or totally opaque. For this reason, if it is not treated in time, it can lead to blindness in the affected eye. It is a fairly common occurrence in elderly felines and has multiple causes, the main one being senile degeneration of the lens. This is a process which causes the lens to desiccate and eventually degenerate to give a cloudy appearance.
Cataracts can also be genetic, meaning they are considered hereditary or congenital diseases. However, this only occurs in rare occasions. Systemic diseases such as diabetes in cats or hypocalcemia can have cataracts as a secondary cause. Other potential factors include toxification, chronic uveitis, trauma or ulcers.
Symptoms of cataracts in cats
The first thing that is evident is partial cloudiness of the eye which appears as a whitish gray spot. It can be diagnosed via a simple eye examination. In cases when only one eye is cloudy, the cat may not show an signs of alteration in vision. Other symptoms include:
- Clumsiness when wandering
- Stumbling over objects
- Abnormally moist eyes
Unlike the previous case, we will not observe complete cloudiness of the cat's eye. The cloudy part of the eye can vary in size, however.
Treatment of cataracts in cats
Although it can be diagnosed by physical inspection in some cases, a complete ophthalmological examination should always be performed and the degree of vision loss identified. The definitive treatment of cataracts is the surgical resection of the lens. However, the application of anti-inflammatory eye drops can cause symptomatic improvement.
3. Feline chlamydiosis
This is another cause of cloudy eyes in cats and is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia felis. This affects domestic cats to a greater extent. It is easily transmissible between individual cats, with an incubation period of 3 to 10 days. Similarly, transmission to humans has been described in research, but it is extremely rare. It mainly affects young cats and those that live in groups, but mating is not determined to be a factor.
Symptoms of feline chlamydiosis
It presents as mild, but persistent conjunctivitis accompanied by rhinitis (inflammation of mucus membrane leading to sneezing and runny nose), watery tears, purulence, fever and loss of appetite. Less frequently, depending on the feline's immune status, the infection can pass to the lungs. If it is not diagnosed and treated in time, the conjunctivitis can be complicated by corneal ulcers and conjuntival edema. It is at the edema stage that the cat's eye will become cloudy or completely covered.
Since the symptoms are very nonspecific, the diagnosis is based on clinical suspicion based on conjunctivitis as the main symptom. It becomes epidemiological when several felines live in a household. However, the presence of the bacteria any other be confirmed by laboratory testing a culture of the secretions. This will help differentiate it from other types of cat eye diseases.
The treatment of feline chlamydiosis is based on general care and maintenance. This requires daily cleaning of the ocular discharge around the cat's eyes and adequate nutrition. Antipyretics for fever and antibiotics to eliminate the microorganism will also likely be administered.
Here we share some other ways a cat's eye infection may be treated.
4. Feline eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis
Feline eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis is a very common chronic disease in cats (also in horses). The main causative agent is feline herpesvirus type 1. The structural alterations that occur in the cornea are immune-mediated by eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in response to antigenic stimuli. This can affect one or both eyes. With this disease, it is not only possible to notice that your cat has a cloudy eye, but it is also possible that both eyes will be cloudy.
Symptoms of feline eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis
Primary infection is a nonspecific and self-limited conjunctivitis accompanied by lacrimation (tearing seepage of the eyes). In some cases, palpebral infection of the eyelids can occur. Being a chronic disease, there are recurrences that usually appear in the form of dendritic keratitis (lesion in the corneal epithelium which has the shape of veins in a leaf). After multiple recurrences, one or more whitish/pinkish plaques are established in the cornea, the conjunctiva or both. It can also be associated with painful corneal ulcers.
The diagnosis of this type of keratitis in cats is carried out by identifying the typical lesions and by identifying the eosinophils on corneal cytology or by biopsy of the same. The cat may already have been tested for the feline herpesvirus type 1 (the cause of feline rhinotracheitis).
Treatment of feline eosinophilic keratoconjunctivitis
The treatment of these animals can be done topically, systemically or by a combination of both methods. It will need to be maintained for long periods of time or, in some cases, for life. Subconjunctival injections can be used to reinforce treatment in some cases. As explained above, relapses are frequent in this disease, so treatment must be carried out constantly and we need to be vigilant for the appearance of new lesions.
What to do when you see a cat with a cloudy eye
For all of the above reasons, you need to be very observant for the following problems in a cat's eye:
- Cloudy patch
- Cloudy covering of the whole eye
- Excessively watery eyes
- Eye discharge
If you see any of these symptoms, you will need to take the cat to a veterinarian. They will be able to diagnose the underlying cause and administer the correct treatment. Deferring treatment will worsen the prognosis and can eventually lead to blindness. In some cases, treatment may slow deterioration, but not stop it. Our guide to adopting a blind cat can help if the worst occurs.
Before the eye becomes cloudy, it is possible you will see the cat's pupils are dilated. This is a related symptom which is explained further in this video below:
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Has a Cloudy Eye, we recommend you visit our Eye problems category.
- Sally M. Turner. (2010). Small animal ophthalmology . Editorial ELSEVIER.