Uveitis in Cats: Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Uveitis in Cats

Uveitis in Cats: Uveitis refers to inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye that contains blood vessels. If your cat’s uvea becomes inflamed, it can cause redness, pain, and vision problems.

To diagnose uveitis, your vet will examine your cat’s eyes closely and may perform some tests to determine the underlying cause, which could be infection, trauma, or an immune system issue. Treatment typically involves eye drops to reduce inflammation, fight infection, and relieve pain. In severe cases, oral medication or eye surgery may be recommended.

With prompt diagnosis and proper treatment, most cats with uveitis recover well. However, some may experience recurring bouts or even vision loss if left untreated. So if your cat is showing symptoms, get them to the vet right away for an exam.

Uveitis in Cats

Common Causes of Feline Uveitis

Uveitis in cats can have several underlying causes. The most common culprits include:

1. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

FeLV is a retrovirus that can cause inflammation in a cat’s eyes, leading to uveitis. If your cat tests positive for FeLV, the vet may prescribe steroids and antiviral drugs to help reduce inflammation and control the virus.

2. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Like FeLV, FIV is a retrovirus that attacks the immune system, leaving cats prone to infections that may trigger uveitis. FIV-positive cats can be treated similarly with steroids and antivirals, but the prognosis may be more guarded.

3. Bartonella Henselae

This bacteria, also known as cat scratch fever, can migrate to the eyes and cause inflammation. A course of antibiotic therapy, such as azithromycin or doxycycline, is typically recommended to eliminate the infection.

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4. Trauma

blunt trauma or scratches to the eye may lead to uveitis in some cats. If an injury is suspected, your vet will thoroughly examine the eye to check for any wounds or abrasions before determining appropriate treatment, such as steroids, antibiotics, or in severe cases, surgery.

5. Cancer

Certain types of ocular tumors like lymphoma can cause inflammation and swelling in the eye. Diagnosing the cancer is critical before an effective treatment plan with chemotherapy, radiation, or other anti-cancer drugs can be put in place.

By determining the underlying cause of your cat’s uveitis, the vet can recommend a targeted treatment plan to control inflammation, eliminate any infections, and manage any long-term conditions to prevent recurrences and vision loss. With prompt diagnosis and proper treatment, most cats with uveitis can recover fully.

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Signs and Symptoms of Uveitis in Cats

If your cat is squinting, rubbing its eyes, or seems sensitive to light, it may have uveitis. This inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye, can be painful and lead to vision loss if left untreated. Watch for these common signs of uveitis in cats:

1. Eye redness or swelling

The whites of the eyes may become pink or red, and the eye itself may appear swollen. This indicates inflammation and irritation in the eye.

2. Squinting or sensitivity to light

Your cat may squint frequently or avoid bright light. The inflamed eye tissue makes normal light levels painful.

3. Cloudiness in the eye

The normally clear lens, cornea, or fluid in the eye may appear hazy or cloudy. This is caused by inflammation, and in severe cases can obstruct vision.

4. Eye discharge

You may notice a clear, watery, or thick, mucous-like discharge coming from the eye. This is a symptom of the inflammation and a response to irritation.

5. Vision loss (in severe cases)

If uveitis is left untreated for a long period of time, it can cause scarring and permanent damage to eye tissues that results in vision loss or blindness.

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6. Other symptoms

Some cats may experience symptoms like a dilated or constricted pupil, eye spasms or twitching, or abnormal blood vessels on the eye’s surface in addition to redness and swelling.

If your cat is showing symptoms of uveitis, it’s best to have your vet examine them as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Early treatment of uveitis is critical to relieving discomfort, reducing inflammation, and preventing long-term damage or vision loss.

Diagnosing Uveitis in Cats

Diagnosing uveitis in cats starts with a visit to your vet for a comprehensive eye exam. They will evaluate your cat’s eyes for signs of inflammation, irritation, or other abnormalities. Some indicators of feline uveitis include:

1. Redness

The whites of the eyes (sclera) may appear bloodshot or pink. This can signal inflammation in the uvea, the middle layer of the eye that contains the iris and ciliary body.

2. Eye discharge

Your cat may have excessive tearing, mucus, or pus coming from one or both eyes. This discharge is usually caused by irritation from the inflammation in the eye.

3. Squinting

If your cat is squinting, blinking excessively, or keeping one eye closed, it could indicate discomfort from the uveitis. The inflamed eye may be painful or sensitive to light.

4. Cloudiness

The normally clear parts of the eye, like the cornea, aqueous humor, or lens, can become cloudy or hazy. This is due to proteins leaking into these areas from inflamed eye tissues. In severe cases, the cloudiness can lead to vision loss if left untreated.

To determine the underlying cause of the uveitis, your vet may run some tests like:

  • Tonometry to measure eye pressure. High pressure can damage the eye, so it’s important to check.
  • Fluorescein stain to check for corneal ulcers or scratches.
  • Blood tests to check for infections like FIV, FeLV or toxoplasmosis.
  • X-rays or ultrasound to look for other problems.
  • Cytology to analyze cells from the aqueous humor or vitreous fluid.
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With an accurate diagnosis, your vet can recommend an appropriate treatment plan to manage your cat’s uveitis and minimize the risk of vision loss or other complications. The prognosis will depend on the severity and cause of the inflammation, but with prompt treatment, most cats with uveitis can maintain good vision and eye comfort.

Treatment Options for Uveitis in Cats

Uveitis in cats can be treated in several ways depending on the severity and underlying cause. The goal is to reduce inflammation, ease your cat’s discomfort, and prevent vision loss or other complications.

1. Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids, like prednisone or dexamethasone, are commonly used to reduce inflammation in the eyes. They can be administered orally, topically as eye drops, or as injections around the eye. Steroids help decrease swelling, redness, and pain. Side effects may include increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, and weight gain.

2. Immunosuppressants

For chronic or recurrent uveitis, immunosuppressant drugs may be recommended to regulate the immune system response. Cyclosporine and azathioprine are options, and they can be used long-term to control inflammation with fewer side effects than steroids. They may take several weeks of use to become fully effective.

3. Antibiotics

If an infection is present or suspected, your vet may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or oral medication to help clear it up and prevent further problems. Common antibiotics for eye infections include tobramycin, gentamicin, and ciprofloxacin.

4. Hospitalization

In severe cases of uveitis, your cat may need to be hospitalized for intensive treatment. IV fluids, injectable medications, frequent monitoring, and possible surgical procedures may be required, especially if glaucoma or vision loss threatens the eye. Hospitalization allows for 24-hour care and the best chance of saving vision.

5. Surgery

In rare cases, surgery may be recommended to remove lenses, scar tissue, or perform other procedures to control inflammation and reduce pressure in the eye. Surgery is usually only considered as a last resort.

With prompt diagnosis and proper treatment, most cats with uveitis can maintain good vision and eye comfort. Be sure to follow up regularly with your vet to monitor your cat’s condition and make any needed medication or treatment adjustments. Early and aggressive treatment is the key to overcoming uveitis.

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