As a cat owner, you’re probably used to seeing a swollen belly on your cat after they’ve happily chowed down on that ever-so-coveted bowl of wet food. But a swollen eye? That’s a different story. If you find yourself thinking, My cats eye is swollen, it could be the case that they’re experiencing irritation.
Cat eye problems should be taken seriously. Cat eye irritation and swelling can mean several things—from the presence of a bacterial infection to simply a sign of aging. In this guide, we’ll help you determine the cause of your cat’s swollen eyes so that you and your vet can create a plan for treatment and preventative care. So, let’s take a look at some reasons your cat’s eye is swollen.
Blepharitis and Conjunctivitis
Blepharitis and conjunctivitis are common conditions that can cause swollen eyes in cats. Fortunately, you don’t need to understand how to pronounce these conditions to understand how they affect your feline friend.
Blepharitis is the veterinary term for the swelling of the eyelid in one or both eyes. Also known as blepharospasm, two common symptoms of this condition are:
- Excessive or spasmodic blinking
- Watery eye
- Eye inflammation (especially along the eyelid)
Blepharitis can also present in tandem with symptoms of conjunctivitis—an infection you may know better as “pink eye.”2 Aside from swelling, the other accompanying symptom would be cats eyes watering.
Both blepharitis and conjunctivitis are usually the results of a bacterial or viral infection, both of which are treatable. While vets will often prescribe eye drops to soothe and treat swollen eyelids and conjunctiva irritation in cats, pet parents can go the extra mile to provide relief and prevent future irritation by using a cleansing eye wash.
Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Eye Wash is a non-stinging, antibiotic- and steroid-free formula that can alleviate the symptoms of blepharitis and conjunctivitis. Most importantly, it can prevent future bacterial infections by cleaning ocular discharge and preventing bacteria from re-entering your cat’s eyes. So if you were wondering, “How can I treat my cat’s eye infection at home while waiting for the vet?” this is one option.
One of the most common causes of swollen eyes in cats is congenital allergies. Just like humans, cats are sometimes born with a sensitivity to environmental or food allergens that can cause watery, swollen, or irritated eyes.3
While your vet can help you determine the specific allergen causing swollen eyes in your cat, it’s important to keep a watchful eye out for an allergic reaction if you switch laundry detergents, air fresheners, or your cat’s food. In addition to swollen eyes, cats experiencing an allergic reaction may scratch themselves excessively or rub against furniture or the floor to itch the irritated area.
Symblepharon describes the adhesion of the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane that protects the eyeball) to the cornea (the outermost part of the eye protected by the conjunctiva).4 The eye condition is usually the result of ocular ulceration that develops after cats contract Feline Herpes Virus.
If you notice ulcers developing in your cat’s eyes, it could be a sign that your cat is infected with Feline Herpes Virus. Symblepharon can be reversed and treated if it’s caught in time, so any suspicion that your cat’s swollen eyes are a result of Feline Herpes Virus should be discussed with your vet as soon as possible to help prevent symblepharon from developing or worsening.
Infections of the Upper Respiratory Tract
Feline Herpes Virus can also cause infections of the upper respiratory tract. These, in turn, can result in swollen or irritated eyes. Signs of an upper respiratory tract infection include:5
- Discharge from the nose and eyes
Since conjunctivitis is a common symptom of an upper respiratory tract infection, any combination of the above symptoms with any conjunctivitis symptoms (such as watery eyes, excessive blinking, or squinting) should be examined by a vet. Your vet can prescribe eye drops for your cat’s swollen eyes and antibiotics if they suspect that the upper respiratory tract infection is caused by bacteria.
Why are my cat’s eyes red? Red eye is one of the more visible symptoms of keratoconjunctivities sicca. While it sounds serious, keratoconjunctivitis sicca simply describes dry eyes.6 If your cat’s eye is swollen, take a closer look to see if their eyes appear dry or drier than usual.
Chronic dry eyes develop as a result of a variety of factors, including:
- Infection of Feline Herpes Virus
- Medications your cat may be taking
- An immune disorder that disrupts tear production
A vet can treat your cat’s swollen and dry eyes with artificial tears, prescription eye drops, and medications that combat the root cause.
Another sign to look out for if your cat’s eye is swollen is the size of their pupils. If the pupils are two distinctly different sizes, your cat is suffering from anisocoria—a condition where one pupil is significantly larger than the other.7
Anisocoria can arise as a result of a physical injury to the eye, or it can develop as a symptom of a more severe condition, like:
- Glaucoma (a condition common among older cats)
- Retinal disease
- Ocular cancer
- Uveitis (the inflammation of an interior portion of the eye)
Any drastic or abnormal changes in your cat’s pupil size should be reported to your vet right away.
Are Your Cat’s Eyes Swollen? Vetericyn Can Help
Cat eye swelling, irritation, and discharge can be a symptom various conditions, so it’s paramount that you bring up any eye abnormalities with your vet as soon as you notice them.
But, prevention is the best medicine, and Vetericyn is here to help. Nip any potential irritations in the bud with Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Eye Wash which can flush out dirt and debris that may be causing (or exacerbating) your cat’s eye irritation. Our eye wash not only provides instant relief, but it also helps keep eyes healthy and reduce chances of future eye problems. (Incidentally, this eye drop can also be used for dogs.)
For the most effective treatment, gently flush the affected eye 3 to 4 times a day. Because our eye wash is non-toxic and free of alcohol, steroids, and antibiotics, there’s no rinsing necessary.
- VCA Animal Hospitals. Blepharitis in Cats. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/blepharitis-in-cats
- Cornell Feline Health Center. Conjunctivitis. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/conjunctivitis
- MDS Veterinary Manual. Allergies of Cats. https://www.msdvetmanual.com/cat-owners/skin-disorders-of-cats/allergies-of-cats
- Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island. Ocular Herpes in Kittens. https://vmcli.com/ocular-herpes-in-kittens/
- VCA Animal Hospitals. Feline Upper Respiratory Infection. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feline-upper-respiratory-infection
- VCA Animal Hospitals. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or Dry Eye in Cats. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/keratoconjunctivitis-sicca-kcs-or-dry-eye-in-cats
- VCA Animal Hospitals. Anisocoria in Cats. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/anisocoria-in-cats