Blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelids, primarily occurs when the
eyelids are injured during cat fights. Scratches and
surface injuries can easily become infected. This leads to itching and
scratching, crust formation, and the accumulation of pus and debris on the
Blepharitis can also be caused by head mange mites (Notoedres cati),
demodectic mange mites, or ringworm infection. Head mange causes intense
itching. Because of persistent scratching, there is hair loss, redness, and scab
formation. Ringworm affects the hair on the eyelid, causing it to become
brittle and break off next to the skin. This is not an itchy condition. The
skin may look scaly and crusted but is seldom red or irritated.
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Treatment: Protect the eye by instilling mineral oil, and then loosen the
scabs by soaking them with warm compresses. Keep the eye clean and seek
veterinary attention. Antibiotics, topical or oral or
both, may be required for infected eyelids.
Spasm of the muscles around the eye is induced by pain. This can have
numerous causes, including irritation from a foreign body. The irritation
causes tightening of the eyelid muscles, which partially closes the eye and
rolls the eyelids inward against the cornea. Once rolled in, the rough margins
of the lids rub against the eyeball, causing further pain and spasm.
Treatment: Anesthetic drops can be applied to the eyeball to relieve the
pain and break the cycle. The relief is temporary if the underlying irritant is
not found and removed.
Chemosis (Sudden Swelling)
In cats with this condition, the conjunctiva and eyelids are fluid-filled,
puffy, and soft. Water has passed out of the circulation into the tissues in
response to the allergen.
Sudden swelling of the eyelids and conjunctiva is generally caused by an
allergic reaction. Insect bites and allergens in foods and drugs are the most
Chlamydophila and viral infections may also cause swelling, but it is
primarily of just the conjunctiva.
Treatment: This is not a serious problem. It is of short duration and
improves when the allergen is removed. Simple cases may be treated with drops
or eye ointments prescribed by your veterinarian that contain a corticosteroid.
Some cats may need systemic treatment for the allergic reaction, such as a
corticosteroid or an antihistamine.
Foreign Bodies in the Eye
Foreign material such as dust, grass seed, dirt, or specks of vegetable
matter can become trapped behind the eyelids and nictitating membranes.
Although this is more common in cats who go outdoors, indoor cats may get hairs
or dust in their eyes and on their corneas, as well. The first indication is
tearing and watering, along with signs of irritation such as blinking and squinting. The
third membrane may protrude to protect the irritated eye.
Treatment: You might be able to see a foreign body on the surface of the eye
or behind the upper or lower eyelid. If not, the foreign body may be caught
behind the third
eyelid, and the cat will need a topical eye anesthetic before you can lift
up the eyelid and remove the foreign matter. This is something your
veterinarian should do, especially if your cat is not cooperative with being
For dirt and loose debris in the eye, hold the eyelid open and flush the eye
with artificial tears, a sterile saline eye solution, or cool water for 10 to
15 minutes. Soak a wad of cotton and squeeze it into the eye, or drop it into
the eye from the bottle of solution. If a foreign body can be seen but cannot
be removed by irrigation, you may be able to remove it by gently swabbing the
eye with a moistened cotton-tipped applicator. The foreign body may adhere to