Many ocular conditions seen in cats are identical to those in other domestic species however there are eye diseases which
are only seen with any frequency in cats (eyelid agenesis, diffuse iris melanoma) or which have common and unique presentations
in the cat compared with other species (immune mediated uveitis and ocular eosinophilic disease).
Eyelid agenesis or coloboma is the most commonly reported eyelid developmental abnormality. Usually the upper lateral eyelid
is poorly developed with skin and eyelid hair directly abutting the conjunctival and corneal surface resulting in chronic
irritation, increase lacrimation, blepharospasm, and keratitis. Treatments have involved localized cilia cryothermy or skin
grafting procedures for large lid defects.
Entropion may occur as a congenital condition (often in brachycephalic reeds) or develop in association with inflammatory
disease of the eyelids or cornea. Surgical repair is usually straightforward.
Blepharitis is seen less commonly in cats than dogs. Causes include bacterial infections (Staphylococcus), mange, dermatomycosis,
and immune mediated disease. Eyelid neoplasia in cats differs from the types seen in dogs. Squamous cell carcinoma is common
in white cats from UVL exposure. Surgical excision (or debulking) of squamous cell carcinoma often requires other adjunctive
treatment to effectively limit progression of the disease. Mast cell tumors may involve the lid including the margin – excision
is often effective in treating the disease.
The third eyelid may be involved in inflammatory disease of the conjunctiva (see below). Prolapsed of the gland of the third
eyelid occurs infrequently with a predisposition in the Burmese. Surgical repositioning in usually curative.
Third eyelid protrusion is seen in young cats with enteritis, weight loss. It must be differentiated from orbital mass (exophthalmos,
globe deviation, failure to retropulse, Horner's syndrome (enophthalmos, miosis and ptosis), microphthalmos, and phthisis
bulbi. Neoplasia of the third eyelid is not common in the cat – swelling of the nictitans may occur with eosinophilic infiltrative
Conjunctivitis is probably the most commonly seen feline ocular disease in general practice. The etiologies include feline
herpesvirus, chlamydophila felis, less commonly mycoplasma, calicivirus and allergic (immune mediated disease). Determining
a definitive etiology is difficult. Culture of the conjunctiva is usually meaningless; cytology may help differentiate herpesvirus
form eosinophilic infiltrative disease or neoplasia. PCR for herpesvirus or Chlamydophila is rarely of value diagnostically.
Clinical sign are ocular discharge (often accompanied in cases of viral disease by signs of upper respiratory tract infection),
conjunctival hyperemia, eyelid edema and chemosis Conjunctivitis may be accompanied by corneal ulceration in herpesvirus infection.
Change from a serous to mucopurulent discharge will accompany secondary bacterial infection. Chronic conjunctivitis (especially
associated with herpesvirus infection results in symblepharon with adhesions forming between the palpebral and bulbar conjunctiva
and cornea and scaring the nasolacrimal duct. The most common sequel to conjunctivitis in the cat is chronic epiphora.
Treatment is supportive in most cases – topical antibiotics q8-6h (neomycin, polymixin, gramicidin, tetracycline or ofloxacin),
NSAIDs ( flurbiprofen or diclofenac Na), systemic antibiotics (for secondary infections), nebulization and fluid and parenteral
nutrition in severe cases of URT infection, oral L-Lysine 500 mg PO daily. Systemic use of anti-viral drugs may be helpful
– in most cases famcyclovir is the drug of choice. Chronic symblepharon can be treated surgically but requires cautious dissection
of scarred tissue combined with vigorous herpesvirus and anti-inflammatory therapy.
Corneal ulceration occurs in the cat in for many of the same reasons in dogs (trauma) but in all cases the possibility of
herpesvirus infection should be considered in the differential diagnoses. Typical dendritic staining patterns with rose Bengal
and Fluorescein stain is diagnostic however when larger more geographic ulcers are seen herpesvirus should still remain the
number one differential. For this reason in any ulcers which fail to heal within a few days in the absence of obvious causes
of irritation, herpesvirus therapy should be considered. For simple superficial abrasions and ulcer topical antibiotic therapy
(possibly combined with limited use of cycloplegic) is adequate initially - recheck within 4-5 days – if the lesion is not
healed add herpesvirus therapy. In most cases suspected herpesvirus keratitis is treated with topical idoxuridine, trifluridine
or cidofovir q4-6h and may be supplemented with systemic famcyclovir and L-lysine orally.
Superficial non-healing ulcers occur in cats and may behave the same way as in dogs. Treatment is by epithelial debridement
and application of a soft contact lens to the cornea. Grid keratotomy is contra-indicated in this species. Corneal sequestra
are probably the feline version of the canine non-healing ulcer. These are treated with superficial keratectomy with contact
lens support or by an advancement corneal graft or support with a synthetic graft material.