Though dogs are known for having more eye problems than cats, when a cat does develop an eye infection, it often causes long-lasting damage. Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, happens when conjunctiva, or the pink mucous membrane at the corner of the eye, becomes inflamed and red. This infection may affect one or both eyes. If your cat's eyes look like they have developed pink eye, here's how to treat cat conjunctivitis:
- Learn the symptoms of cat conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is the most common eye infection in cats. If your cat has pink eye, he may be squinting and have a watery discharge from one or both eyes. This discharge may appear clear, green, or yellow. The cat's eyes may be cloudy. Often, conjunctivitis develops along with symptoms of an upper respiratory infection.
- Go to the vet. A vet can usually diagnose conjunctivitis by a physical examination, though occasional testing may be necessary. To treat cat conjunctivitis caused by irritants, viruses or bacteria, the vet will prescribe topical antibiotics. If your cat is prone to recurring conjunctivitis, the vet may directly inject medications into the conjunctiva, the part of the eye that is becoming inflamed.
- Administer the eye medications. Use the topical antibiotics as prescribed. Usually, this means applying the ointment or drops to your cat's eyes four to six times per day. This time-consuming task may require two people, one to hold the cat still while the other applies the medication. Be diligent about using the medication as directed, or your cat's conjunctivitis may not improve. 1 to 2 drops directly into the eye, or about half an inch of ointment per eye, is usually sufficient. The eyes must then be closed to spread the medication over the entire surface of the eye.
- Keep your cat calm. Some cats develop recurring conjunctivitis due to stress, in much the same way as some people get recurring cold sores. Manage the conjunctivitis by avoiding changes to your cat's routine to prevent flare-ups of his condition. For example, avoid introducing new cats into the household or changing your cat's food, litter or the location of his bed or litter box. If your cat does have a flare-up of pink eye, talk to your vet about appropriate measures to reduce his discomfort.
- Return to the vet. If your cat's symptoms have not improved, visit the vet again. In rare cases, conjunctivitis does not respond well to topical antibiotics, or appears to improve and then gets worse or comes back. Your veterinarian can conduct tests to determine a second treatment method. For example, some types of conjunctivitis can only be treated by infection or through pills.
Though conjunctivitis is more common in long-haired cats, any cat can develop this infection. It is also more common in cats who spend time outdoors, where they may come in contact with eye irritants or get in fights with other animals, causing trauma to the eye. Cat conjunctivitis is easy to diagnose and fairly easy to treat, but it should be treated as soon as symptoms are noticed.