Conjunctivitis (Inflammation of the Eye) in Cats

Conjunctiva is a mucous membrane or a semi-transparent tissue which covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis refers to a swelling or an inflammation of the conjunctiva.

In normal conditions, the conjunctiva is semi lucent, moist and has numerous blood vessels. It serves as a protective shield for the eye by preventing infections (bacterial and viral) and also keeps the eye moist.

Conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye conditions seen in pets. It can be caused by numerous factors such as dust, environmental irritants (leaves, twigs, foreign matter), excessive rubbing of the eye, bacterial infections, viral infections, fungal and parasitic infections, known ocular diseases. Clinical signs include redness of the eye, excessive blinking, watery eyes.


The underlying causes of conjunctivitis are many. These include:
› Environmental causes such as irritants, dust, leaves, twigs, foreign matter, pollen, sand
› Household materials such as cleansers, disinfectants, chemicals
› Smoke from fire, cigarettes, fumes and vapors
› Development abnormalities of the eye, lens, eyelashes, eyelids
› Ocular diseases of the retina, lens, cornea
› Skin diseases of the surrounding areas of the eye
› Allergies
› Trauma and physical injury, scarring of the eye
› Systemic illness such as Pyrexia (fever), lethargy
› Diseases such as Feline Calicivirus (FCV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1)
› Disorders of the pupils, tear ducts
› Parasite Infections such as Thelaziasis, Cuterebriasis (botfly)
› Congenital (present from birth) due to various causes
› Cancer, tumors, tissue growth in and around the eye
› Chlamydiosis infection

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

Common symptoms include:
› Redness in the eye
› Recurrent Ocular Discharges
› Blepharospasm (excessive blinking)
› Swelling of the conjunctiva


Diagnosis can be tricky as there are numerous factors which can cause Conjunctivitis.
Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the parasite. They are:

› Physical Examination
› Eye Examination – to check for any foreign body (such as plant twigs, pollen, dust, sand, grass ans, debris) stuck in the eye
› Biochemical Profile
› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Electrolyte Panel Test
› Urinalysis (UA)
› Fluorescein Stain – to detect superficial abrasions, ulcers, corneal lesions
› Tonometry Test – to measure eye pressure (also known as Glaucoma test)
› Schirmer Tear Test (STT) – to confirm adequate tear production as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) can also cause Conjunctivitis
› Bacterial Culture Test
› Conjunctival Smear Test
› Conjunctival Biopsy (very rare)
› Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) Test
› Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Test


Treatment depends on the underlying cause and the symptoms exhibited. Most cases are treated on an outpatient basis. Veterinarians will generally opt for:
› Anti-inflammatory medications
› Antibacterial medications
› Antiviral medications
› Topical ointments, eye lubricants, topical artificial tears, eye drops

Depending on the underlying cause, additional treatments will include:
› Removing any foreign body stuck in the eye
› Medications for Tear production abnormalities
› Surgery
› Antibiotic medications


Limiting your pet indoors reduces the exposure to disease causing agents and environmental irritants. All pets have to be vaccinated to avoid complications caused by viral infections. If you suspect your pet having a foreign body stuck in the eye, flushing it out with eye solutions is advised.

Home Care

Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to weeks, depending on the severity. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.

› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Do not allow you pets outdoor, this will reduce the risk of accidents, injury, fights with other pets.
› Veterinarians will suggest Elizabethan collars to prevent pawing and scratching the eye.

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