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Cornea Problems in Cats

Corneal Ulcers continued...

Large ulcers may be visible to the naked eye. They appear as dull spots or depressions on the eye surface. Smaller ones are best seen after the eye has been stained with fluorescein. Your veterinarian will gently put a drop of fluorescein liquid or put a tab of paper impregnated with fluorescein onto the eye. The eye is then examined with a blue light in a room with dim lighting. The corneal damage will glow brightly.

Treatment: Early treatment is vital to avoid serious complications or even loss of the eye. Treatment may include atropine drops for pain control (remember, these drops are quite bitter and cats will foam at the mouth if they get any atropine orally) and antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections.

Cortisone, which is incorporated into many eye preparations used for conjunctivitis, should not be put into the eye if you suspect the cat has a corneal injury. This can lead to rupture of the cornea and blindness.


Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea, or clear window of the eye. This is a painful eye condition and should be distinguished from conjunctivitis. Signs of keratitis include squinting, discharge, rubbing the eye, and protrusion of the third eyelid. Conjunctivitis, on the other hand, is characterized by a chronic eye discharge with little, if any, pain.

There are different types of keratitis. All result in loss of transparency of the cornea, which may lead to partial or complete blindness in the affected eye. Keratitis must be managed by a veterinarian. Initially, topical drops or ointments may need to be given as frequently as hourly or every two hours.

Ulcerative Keratitis

An injury to the surface of the eye can result in the development of an abrasion or ulcer that does not heal and becomes secondarily infected. Trauma is the most common cause of ulcerative keratitis in cats.

An infectious form of ulcerative keratitis is caused by feline herpesvirus. The signs of respiratory infection occur before or at the same time as eye involvement. One or both eyes may be affected.

Treatment: This involves antiviral eye medications, possibly including the new drug cidofovir. Vaccination for the herpesvirus will help but does not totally prevent this disease. Adding lysine to the diet may help, as this amino acid competes with the amino acid arginine, which is essential for herpesvirus replication.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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