Blepharitis in Cats: Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your cat can develop blepharitis for a number of reasons, including a bacterial or viral infection, eye disease or a food allergy. Blepharitis causes inflammation of the eyelid margins and irritation around the outer eyelids and is a long-term condition. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach:
A common symptom of blepharitis in cats is crusts that form along the eyelid margin, and the skin around the eyelids can also flake and appear inflamed. Your cat may also have a clear or mucous-tinged discharge from their eyes. Some cats paw at their eyes to try and relieve the itching and irritation caused by the inflammation, and this can cause their hair to thin out around the eyes.
A visual inspection of your cat's eyes is all that's needed for a vet to confirm they have blepharitis. However, the vet will want to establish the cause to ensure they recommend the best course of treatment, so blood and skin cell samples will be taken. Raised C-reactive protein levels in your cat's blood confirms there's an infection, and blood can also be useful in determining if your cat has a food allergy. The skin cell sample can tell the vet if your cat has a parasitic or bacterial infection, and identifying the specific parasite or type of bacteria ensures your cat is treated with a drug that's effective against that pathogen.
Treatment for blepharitis in cats consists of two parts. Firstly, your cat's eyes have to be kept clean while the underlying cause is being treated, so daily eyelid washes are necessary. Simply remove crusts and discharge residue from your cat's eyes with a soft cotton pad dipped in a lukewarm saline solution. This will keep your cat comfortable and allow their eyes to begin to heal.
Secondly, the cause will be treated with medication or dietary changes. Anti-parasitic drugs or topical antibiotics will be prescribed, and the vet may recommend a course of corticosteroids if the inflammation is particularly bad. If food allergies, which can develop at any time in your cat's life, are thought to be to blame, you will be asked to put your cat on an elimination diet to establish which foods, such as soy and wheat, are causing an inflammatory reaction. You'll eliminate common allergenic foods one at a time and keep a food diary to track how your cat's symptoms respond to the dietary changes.
Some bacteria and parasites, such as parasitic mange, can spread to other animals in your home, so they may also need to be treated even if they have no symptoms of blepharitis. If you have concerns about your cat's eye health, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.