Most cats suffer from at least one eye infection at some time in their lives. Viruses and bacteria can infect the upper respiratory tract and eyes, typically resulting in runny, red eyes, sneezing, and a drippy nose. These symptoms are most common in kittens, but adult cats can also be affected, particularly if they are chronically infected with one of the viruses (herpes virus or calicivirus) that can flare-up during times of stress. Cats can also suffer from wounds to the surface of the eye or other conditions that might predispose them to infection and require treatment.
If a veterinarian suspects that herpes or calicivirus is to blame for a cat’s symptoms and the patient is not too severely affected, symptomatic treatment may be all that is needed. Keep the cat’s eyes and nose clean by wiping them several times a day with a warm, wet cloth and offer a favorite food to encourage the cat to eat. If the cat’s symptoms improve over the course of a week or two, no further treatment is necessary.
Topical eye medications become necessary, however, when a cat’s ocular symptoms are especially severe, fail to improve as expected, or have a non-viral cause. Picking the right medication can be difficult, however, since without testing the microorganism responsible for the infection is often not identified.
For symptoms, associated with upper respiratory infections involving the eyes that are potentially caused by bacteria, erythromycin or chloramphenicol are typically good options. Gentamycin can be a good choice when a traumatic wound to the eye is to blame. Confirmed viral infections respond best to antiviral medications. Another option for eye infections in cats that are caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi is an antibiotic-free product containing the antiseptic oxychlorine called Vetericyn-VF.
Sometimes, topical treatment alone will not eradicate a cat’s eye infection. Oral medications and/or other interventions may also be necessary in severe cases. If you suspect your cat has an eye infection, contact a veterinarian to determine the best treatment plan.