How to Diagnose Keratitis in Cats

Three Methods:Diagnosing KeratitisRecognizing Symptoms of KeratitisUnderstanding Keratitis

Keratitis is a common condition that affects the cornea of a cat's eye. There are a number of conditions that can trigger keratitis, but the most important thing for an owner is to recognize that the cat has an eye problem and seek the opinion of a veterinarian.[1] Learn how to diagnose keratitis so you can get your cat prompt medical care.

Method 1
Diagnosing Keratitis

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    Take your cat to the vet. If you suspect that your cat has keratitis, take him to the vet immediately. Leaving keratitis untreated can lead to severe eye damage which may result in blindness.
    • Common symptoms of keratitis include swollen or irritated eyes, discharge from the eye, and discoloration of the eye.
    • Though eye irritation might be due to multiple conditions, or caused by a variety of triggers, any eye problems in your cat should be seen by a vet.
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    Get a physical examination. When you take your cat to the vet, the vet will perform a thorough physical exam. This usually includes checking the cat's temperature to rule out fever, listening to the chest, and looking at the tongue. Then the vet will check for complications in the eye, such as a corneal ulcer or glaucoma.
    • Your vet will check to see if the cat has a more generalized respiratory infection, such as with herpes virus.
    • To check for an ulcer, the vet puts drops of a special dye into the eye. The orange dye stains ulcers bright green. This is important to check since the treatment for keratitis can involve steroid drops, and steroids can make corneal ulcers worse.
    • If the vet suspects glaucoma, then she will use a tonometer to check the pressure within the eye. This condition can mimic keratitis, but the treatment is different for glaucoma than keratitis.
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    Run additional tests. To rule any other reasons for keratitis, the vet may select other tests to run. This may include wiping a sterile swab over the surface of the eye and then sending the culture to check if there is a bacterial colony present which needs treatment.[2]
    • The vet may also run blood tests, checking the pet's general health and factors which may suppress the immune system, such as FeLV and FIV. These can prevent the natural defense mechanisms of the eye from reducing inflammation.

Method 2
Recognizing Symptoms of Keratitis

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    Watch for swollen eyes. One symptom of keratitis is red, swollen eyes. Swollen eyes may be accompanied by a discharge from the eye.[3]
    • The discharge from the eye may be clear and watery, making the fur beneath look wet. It may also take on a yellow-green color if it is infected.
    • Swollen eyes may be a symptom of a generalized infection from the herpes virus.
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    Check to see if the cat is favoring his eye. Cats with keratitis may display symptoms of eye discomfort. This means the cat may favor the eye.[4]
    • Your cat may rub the eye with his paw or rub his eye on the ground.
    • The eye may be closed, or your cat may start squinting. Additionally, he may be sensitive to light, so he may spend time in dark places or have trouble keeping his eyes open in bright lights.
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    Monitor for eye discoloration. If your cat has keratitis, there may be some discoloration in the eye. The surface in the center of the eye should be clear so you can see the black pupil. If keratitis is present, you may see abnormalities there.
    • The surface of the eye may have inflamed patches with blood vessels threading over the surface.[5]
    • Sometimes, due to extra cells in the eye area, the eye may take on a whitish appearance that looks like white-pink lace.[6]
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    Look for brown stains in the eyes. With severe keratitis that becomes well-established due to lack of treatment, sometimes the area slowly becomes pigmented and brown staining covers the surface. This change may be permanent and the pigment prevents light entering the eye and interferes with the cat's sight.
    • In severe cases, the cat may become blind in that eye as a result. Therefore, early diagnosis and treatment is desirable.[7]
    • Tests may be done to rule out other possible causes of the eye symptoms to make a more definitive diagnosis, especially in the case of herpes.[8]
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    Look for respiratory distress. Cats who have keratitis may display signs pointing to problems with their upper respiratory system. This might include sneezing, nasal discharge, or even discharge from the ears.[9]
    • If the keratitis occurs because of the herpes virus, respiratory symptoms may show earlier than or at the same time as eye symptoms.

Method 3
Understanding Keratitis

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    Treat the condition. The treatment depends on the underlying reason for the keratitis and the symptoms. Common treatments for keratitis are eye drops or a topical ointment since eye infections are common.
    • Your vet may also recommend giving your cat some kind of supplement to help boost her immune system, such as L-Lysine. This is supposed to help decrease the chance of a recurring corneal ulcer.[10][11]
    • If your cat has the herpes virus, the eye may not respond to the same treatments. Anti-virals may be given, along with an antibiotic for any present infection.[12]
    • If the swelling in the eye is bad, the vet may give the cat anti-inflammatory drugs.[13]
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    Understand that keratitis may be a result of a contagious disease. A cat with the feline herpes virus can infect another cat, which may lead to keratitis. If you know your cat or another cat has keratitis due to an infectious disease, separate them until the cat has been treated and healed.[14]
    • An infectious disease like feline herpes can be contracted through contact with bodily fluids such as saliva, nasal or ear discharge, and sneeze droplets.
    • The virus can also be contracted from litter trays, food and water bowls, and bedding.
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    Vaccinate your cat against FHV. Since a common reason cats get keratitis is due to the feline herpes virus, you should vaccinate your cat. While vaccinations won’t eliminate the chances of your cat getting FHV, it will significantly reduce the risk.[15]
    • You can get your cat vaccinated against FHV at around eight weeks. It initially takes two or three injections, then a booster at one year, then boosters every one to three years.
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    Learn the causes of keratitis. Keratitis is an umbrella term to describe the appearance of an affected eye. There is no one cause of keratitis. Anything that produces prolonged irritation on the surface of the eye can trigger the inflammation associated with keratitis.
    • Common triggers include a herpes virus infection, a blow to the eye like a scratch sustained during a catfight, or rubbing on the surface of the eye, such as from eyelashes from inturned eyelids.

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Categories: Animal Care and Wildlife Occupations