Feline uveitis…a common cause of glaucoma in cats

In last week’s post, I wrote about glaucoma in dogs. And in dogs, glaucoma can be genetic or brought on by an underlying health condition. But in cats, it’s rarely genetic. It’s almost always brought on by an eye disorder called chronic uveitis.

And unlike dogs, cats don’t get a lot of eye diseases. But uveitis is one of the most common ones they do get and it’s extremely painful—not to mention dangerous.

Uveitis is an inflammation of one or all of the layers of the uveal tract, which is a hollow ball that sits within the eyeball itself. Besides being very painful, it can lead to blindness.

The uveal tract is made up of three layers; 1) the iris, which is the colored part of the eye, 2) the ciliary body which produces aqueous humor, the fluid that nourishes and removes waste from the cornea and lens, and 3) the choroid which is the main source of blood and nutrition for the retina.

Uveitis can be caused by trauma to the eye, an infection, or cancer. In 60% of the cases of uveitis, the underlying cause is never determined.

But it’s important that your vet try to figure out the source of the problem because the infections and cancers associated with uveitis are often life threatening.

What are the signs of uveitis?

Feline uveitis can happen in both eyes simultaneously if the underlying cause is a systemic problem. If it’s due to a disorder specific to the eye, it’s likely going to affect just one eye.

It can come on slowly and progress slowly until you start to notice a problem. Or it can come on suddenly and progress quickly.

The most common symptom is a color change. The colored part of the eye becomes cloudy or red.

But here are some other signs to look out for:

Squinting

Sensitivity to light

Third eyelid protrudes

Tearing or a watery discharge

Change in shape or size of pupil

Iris becomes muddy or red

Cataract forms

Enlarged eye (if uveitis progresses to glaucoma)

Uveitis can lead to glaucoma in cats. If you read last weeks post, you know how serious glaucoma is. If pressure is allowed to build up in your cat’s eye, they may go blind and lose that eye.

Not only can it result in glaucoma, but uveitis can also cause cataracts, a detached retina, and dislocation of the lens. These conditions can all lead to blindness.

And uveitis is a clue that something bigger is going on. The underlying disease that’s causing the inflammation can be deadly so early diagnosis is a must.

What is the treatment for feline uveitis?

When you notice a problem, get your cat to the vet immediately. Your vet will do a full examination to try to diagnose what’s causing the problem. They’ll test the pressure in your cat’s eye to see if glaucoma has set in. But they may send you to a veterinary ophthalmologist to have this done.

Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the inflammation and pain, and to treat the underlying condition.

If the hidden problem is cancer and it’s only in the eye and nowhere else, the vet will likely suggest removing the eye.

If cancer’s not the problem, the vet will prescribe topical anti-inflammatory meds for your kitty’s eye and possibly oral anti-inflammatories also. And if they’ve determined the root cause, they’ll treat that too, which could mean antibiotics, anti-virals, or anti-fungals.

If your cat already has glaucoma, they’ll have to treat it immediately. You can read about treatments for glaucoma in last week’s post. But if the pressure caused by glaucoma isn’t controlled, your cat will go blind and possibly lose their eye—and glaucoma is painful!

Don’t let it get that far!

If your vet isn’t equipped to measure eye pressure, or you think your cat is showing signs of glaucoma, seek out a veterinary ophthalmologist. Don’t assume your vet is experienced in treating glaucoma…and it’s a condition that can’t be left to chance. Your cat’s eye is at stake.

Know that once your cat has feline uveitis it can be a chronic lifelong problem that requires regular visits to the vet for monitoring and potentially lifetime treatment. But effective treatments exist. So if caught quickly, your cat should be able to maintain a great quality of life.

Does your cat suffer from feline uveitis? What has your experience been? Share your thoughts in the comment section above.

 

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