A cat’s vision is undoubtedly one of its most vital senses, allowing cats to detect predators, or whether their food bowl has been filled recently. When such a vital sense is damaged or even lost, the impact can be hugely detrimental to a cat’s wellbeing.
Loss of vision can occur from an injury or from a host of diseases. Read on to find out more about the common diseases that can cause blindness in cats.
Common Causes of Blindness in Cats
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common ailment that causes blindness in older cats. Overweight or obese cats are more likely to be afflicted. In most cases, feline hypertension in cats is a result of kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. Cat parents should be on the lookout for two signs of hypertension: dilated pupils that don’t respond normally to light and blood in the eye chamber. Feline hypertension is treated by addressing the underlying conditions and using medications to lower a cat’s blood pressure5.
Conjunctivitis is a very common eye disorder that causes inflammation of the pink lining around one or both of your cat’s eyelids. It is normally caused by an upper respiratory disease and it is highly contagious. Symptoms include a red and swollen eye, squinting, and mucus discharge. Conjunctivitis may resolve on its own but should be evaluated by a veterinarian and treated with medicated drops.
Cataracts occur in cats when the clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy, interfering with the ability for light to reach the retina. Cataracts can develop when a feline is unable to metabolize proteins as well as other body chemicals. They can also occur from the aging process. Cataracts can be detected during a routine veterinary exam or by observing behavior changes in your cat such as having trouble finding familiar items or having difficulty going up and down stairs. In some cases, cataracts are removed in a surgical procedure by a veterinary ophthalmologist specialist. Cats with only one eye affected by a cataract can get along fine without treatment. Cataracts are not painful to the animal.
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Like with humans, cats that suffer from glaucoma have a watery fluid in the front of their eye that fails to drain properly. As a result, the buildup of fluid creates pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure makes vision poorer and if untreated can lead to partial or total blindness. Primary glaucoma is rare and hereditary, prone to occur in the following predisposed breeds: Burmese, Persian, and Siamese7.
Secondary glaucoma, which is more common, occurs as a result of another disease such as neoplasia, anterior uveitis, and intraocular hemorrhage7. Once your veterinarian determines the underlying cause of your cat’s glaucoma, an appropriate treatment can be recommended. The symptoms brought on by feline glaucoma are subtle and can take months before an owner will detect them. In most cases, you will notice that one of your cats’ eyes has slowly become cloudier and is getting larger as the pressure increases. Other signs include squinting and a dilated pupil.
Sudden Blindness in Cats
Suddenly noticing your cat’s blindness is different than if your cat is suddenly stricken with a loss of vision. Instant blindness in cats is caused by bleeding into the eye’s interior, a serious blow to the head, or in rare cases the ingestion of enrofloxacin, an antibacterial medicine.
Eye and vision issues may not be immediately noticeable. For example, an elderly cat with chronic hypertension can eventually suffer a detached retina which leads to bleeding in the back of the eye. This is what makes routine veterinary exams extremely important. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
How To Tell If Your Cat Is Going Blind
There are two ways to tell if your cat is having trouble with their vision: how they interact with their environment and physical eye irregularities6. The first of these include clumsiness in their daily activities. If your cat is having trouble finding its food bowl or litter box, miscalculating jumps onto or off of furniture, or hesitant in jumping from heights, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. It should be noted that cats that suffer gradual changes in their sight can adapt to their disability, making it harder to detect a problem.
You can also inspect your cat’s eyes to see if they are red, cloudy, milky, or if one pupil is larger than the other. Squinting more than normal could also be an indication that your cat is having trouble with her eyesight6. Any of these symptoms should prompt medical attention.
Managing Your Cat’s Blindness
Any time one of our pets suffers, our hearts break. The good news about cats with vision issues or blindness is that they can go on to lead happy and healthy lives. The key is to make changes to your home environment to accommodate for their disability. This includes making it easier to find their food, water, bedding, and litter box as well as eliminating clutter in your house. The more obstacles you put in your cat’s path, the greater the chances she will bump into things and have a more difficult time accessing her needs. Also, never allow a visually impaired cat outside unless it is leashed. Identification tags and microchips are two essentials for any pet, but they are even more important for blind cats if they become lost.