Uveitis in cats

Uveitis is a common eye condition in cats and, if left untreated, can lead to pain and blindness. Cats that are squinting should have their eyes checked by a vet. All breeds are at risk of developing uveitis. 

Uveitis is inflammation of the middle area of the eye (uvea), which includes certain tissues within the eye. Depending on the affected tissues, this condition can be called anterior uveitis, posterior uveitis, or panuveitis. Uveitis in cats is often associated with an underlying systemic disease.



What is uveitis in cats?

The eyes are complex structures. The middle layer, called the uvea, includes the:

  • Iris: colourful muscular ring that surrounds the pupil
  • Ciliary body: structure that holds the lens in place
  • Choroid: the layer of tissue that supplies blood to the retina

This painful condition can affect the front of the eye, called anterior uveitis, the back of the eye or posterior uveitis, or the entire uvea, called panuveitis.

Uveitis 1

Uveitis can be caused by conditions originating on or outside of the eye, such as systemic problems:

  • Ulceration or inflammation of the cornea
  • Trauma or injury to the eye
  • Infectious conditions
    • Viral diseases: FIP (feline infectious peritonitis), FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), and FeLV (feline leukaemia virus)
    • Bacterial diseases: bartonellosis, toxoplasmosis
    • Systemic fungal disease
  • Autoimmune disease (disease where the cat produces antibodies against its own tissues)
  • Tumour
  • Unknown origin (Idiopathic)

Regardless of the underlying cause, uveitis is very painful and requires prolonged treatment that can last weeks to months.

An early diagnosis of uveitis and any underlying disease is crucial to prevent secondary glaucoma or permanent blindness.

Taking your cat to an eye specialist vet in a referral hospital may be necessary.



What are the signs of uveitis in cats?

You might notice some or all of the following in your cat:

  • Squinting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Producing more tears
  • The third eyelid is more visible (inner eyelid at the inside corner of the eye)
  • Pawing or rubbing the eye(s)
  • Red or cloudy eye(s)
  • Vision changes or blindness
  • Other nonocular signs, such as enlarged lymph nodes, fever, and others (depending on underlying disease)



Are some cats more at risk of uveitis?

Uveitis can affect any cat, regardless of breed or age.

Are there any human health concerns to consider?

Uveitis does not pose a risk to humans, but certain infectious causes of uveitis may be contagious to humans (zoonotic).

These can include bartonellosis, toxoplasmosis and others.

Talk with your healthcare provider if your pet is diagnosed with a zoonotic condition.



How is uveitis diagnosed?

Uveitis is diagnosed by:

  • Taking your cat’s medical signs and travel history
  • Eye examination (using a light source)
  • Testing the pressure inside the eye
  • Dye test
  • Tear production test
  • Pupil enlargement test: a drop of medicine is applied to both eyes to dilate (enlarge) the pupils for better visualisation of the back of the eye.

To check for other illnesses affecting the body and the eyes, your vet may recommend the following:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine test 
  • Blood pressure test
  • Infectious disease blood testing
  • Ocular ultrasound scan
  • Radiographs (x-rays)
  • Abdominal ultrasound scan 
  • FNA (fine needle aspiration test): small needle test used to collect a sample of the cells from a lymph node or mass present on the skin.


Vet treatment

What is the treatment for uveitis in cats?

Treatment of uveitis is initially focused on reducing inflammation and providing pain relief.

Then, further treatment will be based on your cat’s underlying disease or specific needs.

Your vet might recommend one or more of the following:

  • Topical anti-inflammatory eye ointments or drops to be applied on the eye surface
  • Additional topical eye medications such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, atropine (a drug to dilate the pupil), or lubricating drops
  • Oral (by mouth) painkiller medication
  • Other treatments specific to each underlying cause such as antibiotics, chemotherapy, or surgery
  • Enucleation: surgical removal of the eye is usually recommended for cats with severe glaucoma or tumours in the eye.

With early diagnosis and treatment, most cases start improving within a day or two, but the outcome will depend on the underlying cause.


Home treatment

Home care for a cat with uveitis

Eye discharge should be gently wiped away from the eyes on a daily basis.

  • You can use sterile eye wash or appropriate eye wipes.

Home monitoring and frequent vet rechecks are expected to ensure treatment is working.

  • Vet checks can be needed weekly until fully resolved or, in some cases, in a shorter time frame.

Make sure to give and apply all medication as advised by your vet.

  • Missed doses can lead to a longer recovery period.



Can uveitis in cats be prevented?

Routine vaccination prevents several infectious causes of uveitis.

Routine parasite preventive medications can help protect against infectious organisms in high-risk areas.

Follow your vet’s advice on how to travel safely with your dog. Extra precautions are needed when you are abroad.


When to worry

When do you need to worry about your cat with uveitis?

Call a vet as soon as possible if your cat:

  • Does not improve despite treatment
  • Has changes in their vision
  • Is in pain

Joii can help with advice on:

  • Identifying pain in your cat
  • How to apply and give medication
  • Caring for a cat after eye surgery
  • Cleaning your cat’s eyes
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