Corneal Ulceration in Cats

Overview and Risks
Has your feline friend had irritated eyes lately? It could be a corneal ulcer. The clear surface of the eye is called the cornea, and because it is the outermost layer of the eye, it is more prone to injury than the rest of the eye. Injuries to the cornea have many causes:

  • Scratches
  • Ingrown eyelashes
  • Foreign material in the eye
  • Chemicals
  • Heat or smoke
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Decreased tear production

All cats are at risk for a corneal ulceration, but breeds with flat faces or pronounced eyes like the Himalayan, Persian, or Burmese are at greater risk. Chronic ulcers of the eye occur more frequently in senior cats.  

Ulcers of the eye are very painful and your cat may paw at his or her eye. Additional signs may be:

  • Increased tearing
  • Colored discharge from the eye
  • A cloudiness in the eye
  • Redness of the eye
  • Squinting

Diagnosis and Treatment
Besides causing your cat a lot of pain and misery, an untreated corneal ulcer can cause blindness.  Your veterinarian will want to examine your kitty’s eye(s) very carefully to determine if there is an ulcer of the eye. The exam may include the following:

  • The application of a special fluorescent stain to the eye which, when illuminated with a special light, indicates if the eye is ulcerated
  • A test to measure the production of tears
  • Special tests of eye discharge to  identify whether the cause is bacterial or viral

If your veterinarian determines your kitty has an ulcer of the eye they may recommend the following treatment:

  • Treatment of the underlying cause if necessary  
  • An antibiotic eye ointment or drop to treat or prevent infection
  • Optical pain medication
  • An Elizabethan collar to prevent rubbing or scratching
  • Other medications depending on the severity of the ulcer
  • For non healing, chronic ulcers surgery or referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist may be necessary

It is critical that you administer all the medication your veterinarian prescribes for your feline friend. 

Because there are so many different causes of an ulcer of the eye, there is no single preventive method that works for every situation.  To help reduce your furry friend’s risk of  eye problems, check his or her eyes daily for any obvious signs of irritation such as redness or tearing.  Most importantly contact your veterinarian if you suspect your cat’s eyes look irritated or inflamed.