Let’s Talk Uveitis in Cats and Why Your Vet Should Check It Out ASAP

What is uveitis in cats, and why is it important to get your cat checked out by the vet ASAP? How is it treated and what does it feel like for your cat?

Kitten with eye issues.
Kitten with eye issues. Photography ©ANGHI / iStock / Getty Images Plus.

When your cat’s eyes look swollen, irritated or runny, a number of different things could be causing the symptoms. One common diagnosis is uveitis, which is a general term that describes inflammation of the eye. The term uveitis simply describes the state of inflammation — usually an underlying condition, for instance, a viral, fungal or bacterial infection; an eye injury or scratch; an immune-mediated disease; or even a tumor in the eye, causes uveitis in cats.

What are the signs of uveitis in cats?

Gray cat with eye issues.
What does uveitis in cats look like? Photography ©Kanashi / iStock / Getty Images Plus.

“The most common signs of uveitis in cats that pet owners may notice are squinting of the eye, possibly rubbing the eye, redness of the eye, excessive tearing, light sensitivity, cloudiness of the eye and/or a change in the color of the iris (the colored part of the eye),” says Stephanie Beaumont, DVM, Dipl. ACVO, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist at Animal Eye Specialists in Richardson, Texas.

What should you do if you suspect your cat has uveitis?

Because so many different things can cause symptoms of uveitis in cats, it’s important to have your cat checked out as soon as possible. If uveitis progresses without treatment, some eye issues may permanently affect your cat’s vision. Uncontrolled uveitis in cats can result in intraocular scarring and other complications, including retinal detachment and glaucoma. Both of these serious conditions can cause blindness.

How do vets diagnose the cause behind uveitis in cats?

Using special instruments, your vet will examine your cat’s eye or eyes to try to determine the cause of the inflammation. The vet will also do a complete physical exam, ask you questions about your cat’s lifestyle and living environment, and might want to run bloodwork or other tests, depending on what shows up in the initial exam.

If your vet diagnoses something rare or if she has difficulty identifying an underlying cause for the uveitis, she might refer you to a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. These specialists only diagnose and treat eye disorders. They have specialized equipment and can perform more advanced diagnostic tests (for instance, an ultrasound of the eye).

How is uveitis in cats treated?

“Treatment for uveitis in cats includes anti-inflammatory medication to treat the intraocular inflammation (uveitis) and pain medication, as well as treatment of the underlying cause of the uveitis if it is identified,” Dr. Beaumont explains. These medications are usually eye drops or eye ointment, which your vet or a veterinary technician can show you how to apply.

What does uveitis feel like for cats?

Think back to a time when you had a speck of dirt or something in your eye. It was pretty uncomfortable, right? If your cat’s eyes are runny, watery or swollen, or if your cat is squinting, pawing or rubbing at her eye, it’s very likely that she is experiencing discomfort and is possibly even in pain. “Uveitis tends to be quite painful,” Dr. Beaumont explains. “It is important to seek veterinary care quickly, as the underlying cause of the uveitis may be quite serious and needs to be identified.”

Plus, did you know that uveitis in humans can cause light sensitivity

Thumbnail: Photography ©Kanashi | iStock / Getty Images Plus. 

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Uveitis in Cats and Why Your Vet Should Check It Out ASAP”

  1. Just saw this post and reply. Glad you found out what was causing your cat’s watery eye. That’s bad about his eyelash in that eye. That must have been painful. Glad that the vet could trim his eyelash, and help your cat’s eye problem. Sometimes my cat Rascal would get litter in his eye, and that would make his eye water. So a vet tech said I could put allergy eye drops in his eye and that would help. So I tried that and it worked. So far he hasn’t had anymore eye problems. :-) Guess he’s being more careful about getting litter in his eye. ;-)

  2. Maureen crazy cat lover

    I have had cats for years. And only in last few years came across something new to me anyway an eye issue I had not encountered before. Our medium long haired all black cat Seekers has eyelashes that turn inwards towards his eye. Just one eye. So we have to take him in and get them trimmed often. This has stopped the runny, watery eye.

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