Treating Conjunctivitis in Cats

Conjunctivitus is an inflammation of the membrane that covers a cat's inner eyelids and the surface of the eyeball.
Conjunctivitus is an inflammation of the membrane that covers a cat's inner eyelids and the surface of the eyeball.

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the inner layer of the eye and the inner layer of the eyelid. Many forms of pink eye in cats are caused by allergens or irritants, such as dust and dirt. It's important to understand different types of pink eye. Some can be treated at home, but most cannot.

Conjunctivitis in Cats

Mild Conjunctivitis

When a cat suffers from mild conjunctivitis, this membrane looks pink and somewhat swollen. There will be clear, watery discharge. Sometimes conjunctivitis is a reaction to an irritant, such as wind, cold weather, dust, or allergens. This type can also be the first sign of feline viral respiratory disease.

Mild forms of conjunctivitis can be treated at home. The eye should be cleansed with a diluted solution of boric acid for opthalmic use. This can be purchased at drugstores or pharmacies and used as directed. You should see definite improvement within 24 hours. If not, have your cat examined by a veterinarian.

Severe Pink Eye

More severe pink eye is called purulent conjunctivitis. This type involves a secondary bacterial infection. In this case, the cat's eye will secrete thick discharge or pus which will dry and crust over the lid. When this type of conjunctivitis involves both eyes, the cat may be suffering from a viral respiratory illness. Two types of bacteria cause purulent conjunctivitis: chlamydia and mycoplasma. They can be detected on samples from the conjunctival membrane and observation under a microscope. Specific antibiotics are required to treat this condition, applied several times a day, so a veterinarian's exam and prescription is required.

Follicular Conjunctivitis

Follicular conjunctivitis occurs when the cat's nictitating membrane, or "third eyelid", become inflamed. This can happen when simple irritants get under the membrane. The eye will produce more tears in order to clear the area. Occasionally the inflammation may be due to a foreign object in the eye. For this reason, it is important to have a vet look at the eye to determine whether the eye will be able to clear the irritant out itself or not.

Complex eye infections like these can be hard to treat. In these cases, the tear ducts themselves may become infected. Bring your cat in for an exam, if you are concerned that the infection is more complex.

Is it Safe to Use Eye Drops for Humans on a Cat?

Pink eye often clears up after specifically formulated feline eye drops are administered.

A commonly asked question is: Can I give my cat eye drops that were made for humans? While some eye drops can be used on both humans and cats, it is possible to deliver the wrong dose or use drops with preservatives that damage a cat's eyes. The concentration and dosage of the medication may be different. Before administering, always take your bottle of eye drops to a veterinarian and ask them if the drops would be suitable for your cat.

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Comments 13 comments

amillar profile image

amillar 6 years ago from Scotland, UK

Good hub again. Well researched.

Janice Moon 5 years ago

I can't catch my cat to put drops in her eyes for an infection. What can I put in her food to heal her eye problem. Her eyes are red.

hglick profile image

hglick 5 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY Author

Janice, There is no medicine that can be put in a cat's food to heal eye problems. If you can't catch your cat try to lure her into a cat carrier or into the bathroom with tuna fish or catnip. When you have her you might try wrapping her in a towel so that you can give her the eye drops.

Bella 2 years ago

My kitten has pink eye. I got ointment from my vet, can I put to much In his eye?

hglick profile image

hglick 2 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY Author

Just a dab of ointment will do fine. You should not need more than that.

Poor and worried 2 years ago

I have kittens each liter a month a part and I have one with it really bad and he's barely 2 months and I got two others with it. Myvet gave me some drops and meds for them but It don't seem like it's working very well.

hglick profile image

hglick 2 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY Author

You need to give the meds some time to work. There also may be some other underlying problem going on

brenda 2 years ago

Can u get eye drops without a script for pink eye

hglick profile image

hglick 2 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY Author

ally 2 years ago

Can u use human eyes drops for a kitten with pink eye ?

hglick profile image

hglick 2 years ago from Ronkonkoma, NY Author

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 15 months ago from Home Sweet Home

Poor kitty, my cat is quite healthy, when she is sick, she takes care of herself

Doogan profile image

Doogan 5 months ago

I just read that cats with FHV which my kitty has and he also has FVR shouldn't use eye ointment with steroids in it for his conjunctivitis he has often. I'm wondering why that is when he has the FHV what that matters. It's actually a warning under the ointment on Pet Meds. My vet has given it to my cat since the beginning. Now I wonder as last time he definitely had pressure or pain of some sort as he didn't want to lay his head down and I have had a cat with ulcer in the eye which she ended up losing her eye. If I remember right the steroid makes the ulcer worse. But what does the herpes virus have to do with this. Also should I no longer give him the steroid ointment? Is there something else that would work for the conjunctivitis? He's also on prednisone for allergies I'm not so sure he has. He's also taken the viral med not at the moment though. I took him off everything for his eyes when he couldn't lay his head down. And he is better but the eye issues are pretty constant with him and not suet what to do on the next round which looks like it's coming now.

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    HGlick has rescued and placed stray cats for over 20 years and has personally kept ten rescue cats as pets over the years.

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