What is a feline corneal ulcer?

A corneal ulcer is a very serious condition with the eye of the cat. It involves an erosion of the cornea of the cat that can result in destruction of the eye or loss of vision. The cornea is the clear outer layer of the eyeball. If it becomes too severe, it can actually physically destroy the eye.

   

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What causes them?

There are a number of things that can cause them. First, physical injuries to the eyes - scratches from another cat, or even having something rub against the eye. Second, herpes can cause recurring corneal ulcers in cats. Third, sometimes chemicals can be abrasive to the cat's eyes and can cause them. This is most common when shampoo or something gets splashed into the cat's eye as you bathe it. Fourth, eye infections in cats can cause them as well.

What are the symptoms in cats?

You will not be able to see the corneal ulcer yourself. It is not visible to the naked eye, but your vet can see it with colored eyedrops that make injuries to the eye of the cat visible. You will be able to see some basic symptoms that suggest that your cat has one, however. First, discharge is a big one. It may be more excessive than usual. Second, the cat will rub its eye with its paws and will close the eye partly or entirely because of the pain. If you see these symptoms you should take your cat to the vet, especially if it has had prior eye problems or has been diagnosed with feline herpes.

What is the treatment?

Your vet will determine how extensive the ulcer is and how severe it is. Less severe ulcers do not need much treatment and will heal themselves. Antibiotics are sometimes given by vets to keep the abrasion from causing a secondary infection. The vet may also give you topical eye drops in this case - they don't really heal the eye, but they make it more comfortable for the cat and less painful. That is important because a cat can make the ulcer worse by constantly pawing at the eye and rubbing it. These less severe corneal ulcers usually heal in a few days.

If it is a severe corneal ulcer, the vet may hospitalize the cat and temporarily surgically sew its eye shut. It's kind of complicated because of the weird structure of cat eyes, but basically the idea is to allow the eye to heal without any chance of further injury. The vet will schedule another surgery to open it back up again after it has had a chance to heal.

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