All the Facts About Glaucoma in Cats

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Glaucoma in cats is a condition that affects the eyes of felines, just like it can affect the eyes of humans. Knowing what it is and what its symptoms are could help you recognize it so that you can give your pet the appropriate treatments.

What Is Feline Glaucoma?

Glaucoma, which could occur in one eye or both, develops when the fluid within the eye doesn’t drain as it should. Basically, the fluid starts to accumulate and it puts pressure on the optic nerve. The pressure ultimately causes nerve damage, adversely affecting vision. As the disease progresses without any form of treatment, it could result in your cat becoming partially or completely blind.

The Two Types of Glaucoma

A cat could be diagnosed with primary glaucoma or secondary glaucoma.

Primary glaucoma is inherited, and it is often associated with certain breeds, such as Siamese and Burmese kitties. It is considered relatively rare, but cats who have it will typically have symptoms in both eyes.

Secondary glaucoma, on the other hand, is more common, and it could occur in either one eye or both eyes. It also isn’t as predictable, as a kitty might end up developing severe glaucoma in one eye but never have problems with the other eye.

Related: A Short Guide to Feline Eye Care

The Causes of Glaucoma in Cats

Glaucoma could be caused by uveitis, which is a serious inflammation of the eye that forms protein and debris, which then block the eye’s drainage ducts. This causes the fluid to build up, resulting in the excess pressure. Uveitis could be caused by conditions that include FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), FeLV (feline leukemia virus), toxoplasmosis, and FIP (feline infectious peritonitis).

Glaucoma could also be caused by a dislocation of the lens of the eye, particularly when it falls forward and prevents proper drainage of fluid, as well as tumors, a ruptured lens, and bleeding in the eye.

What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

It could be difficult to recognize the signs that your cat is suffering with glaucoma because symptoms could be quite subtle and the progression of the disease could take place slowly. However, you might notice that your cat is in pain. She might keep an eye partially closed or she might rub her eye or avoid being petted in the area around the eye.

You might also notice that your cat’s eye has gotten cloudier or larger. More specifically, the cornea (which is the clear part of your cat’s eye) might appear bluish or cloudy. One eye might start to appear bigger than the other, particularly as the pressure within the eye increases, and the white of the eye might appear bloodshot/red or swollen.

Related: 7 Common Cat Health Problems

Other symptoms might include a dilated pupil that doesn’t react to light, squinting, behavioral changes, or a clear, watery discharge. And as your cat’s vision decreases, you may also pick up on signs that she is going blind.

It’s important to note that these symptoms could occur suddenly when acute glaucoma is to blame, or they can occur more slowly with chronic glaucoma. Acute glaucoma is considered an emergency, so taking your cat to the vet for immediate diagnosis and treatment is necessary.

What Are the Treatments for Glaucoma in Cats?

To diagnose this disease, your vet will perform a thorough examination and use a tonometer to check for glaucoma in the eyes. A tonometer will use a puff of air to measure the pressure within each eye. If your vet finds that the pressure is too high and your cat is showing signs of vision loss, he may diagnose your cat with glaucoma, and he may even order more tests using gonioscopy to figure out how well the fluid is draining from the eye.

Once your cat is diagnosed with glaucoma, the goal will be to reduce the eye pressure as efficiently as possible. And if your vet is able to figure out the underlying cause, treating that will also be necessary.

Your vet might prescribe remedies to reduce pain, as well as eye drops that contain ingredients like timolol or dorzolamide to help reduce pressure in the eye. He might also recommend steroids to reduce inflammation, or medications that could decrease the production of fluid while promoting drainage. These treatments might also slow down the vision loss.

In some cases, a vet might suggest surgery to reduce eye pressure. Also, removing the affected eye(s) might be recommended if other treatments are ineffective.

Long-term treatments might be necessary, and prognosis will ultimately depend upon the underlying cause of the glaucoma and the effectiveness of the treatments that are provided by your vet.

See Your Vet for Advice

If you notice that your cat’s behavior has changed, her eyes look different, or her vision seems impaired, it’s strongly recommended that you seek help from your vet. With proper treatment, you can help your cat feel better if she is diagnosed with glaucoma.