By the time your kitten is 8 to 14 days old, their eyes will begin to open. Unfortunately, their eyes are extremely sensitive and delicate during this time making them susceptible to infections. Here, our San Angelo vets discuss the causes and symptoms of eye infections in kittens along with what to expect from treatment.

What are eye infections and how do they occur in kittens?

Newborn kittens can easily develop infections of the mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyeball and eyelids (conjunctiva). These infections can be derived from contact with infected vaginal discharge in the birth canal of the mother, or simply from living in unhygienic environments where the kitten is exposed to a host of viruses and bacteria.

This is most likely to occur in kittens that have been homeless or were born to a stray mother. Shelters frequently need to address eye infections in newly acquired kittens.

Common Causes of Kitten Eye Infections

Some of the viruses and bacteria that can cause eye infections in kittens include:

  • Staphylococcus spp. (bacteria)
  • Streptococcus spp. (bacteria)
  • Herpesvirus (Feline viral rhinotracheitis or FVR)

Symptoms of Eye Infections In Kittens

While the symptoms will vary based on the underlying cause of the infection, some of the most commonly seen symptoms include:

  • Red inflamed eyes and eyelids
  • Discharge (clear or pus-like)
  • Eyelids sticking to the front of the eyes
  • Swollen eyelids that bulge outward
  • Sores on the surface of the eye
  • Collapsed eyeball

How are eye infections in kittens diagnosed?

Your vet will start by thoroughly examining your kitten to assess their overall health and to look for signs of viral or bacterial infections. During the appointment, the vet will ask for any information you may have regarding the mother's health and the kitten's living conditions.

If your kitten's eye infection may have been caused during birth, your vet may examine a sample of the kitten's eye discharge and the mother's vaginal discharge (if possible) to more accurately identify the type of infection.

To check your kitten's eye for signs of trauma your vet may use eye drops containing a yellow dye to help make any scratches, or foreign objects easier to spot.

If a systemic disease (disease affecting the entire body) is suspected, blood tests and a urinalysis may be recommended to pinpoint the exact cause.

Treating Eye Infections In Kittens

If you notice any concerning signs involving your kitten's eyes you should bring them to see the vet right away.

If your kitten is diagnosed with an eye infection, the treatment will be based on an assessment of your cat's overall health condition. If your cat's eye infection is the primary concern your vet may prescribe a topical treatment such as Terramycin® or Vetropolycin®.

On the other hand, if your cat's eye infection is due to an underlying condition such as FeLV or Calicivirus, the underlying condition will be the main focus of the treatment. Which treatment your vet prescribes will depend on the nature of the underlying disease but could include oral antibiotics or immune boosters.

Your vet will gently moisten the kitten's eyes with warm water and attempt to coax the top and bottom eyelids apart. Once your kitten's eyes are open the vet will delicately wash the eye and eyelids to remove all signs of discharge, pus, or crust.

Once the eyes are clean, a warm compress may be used to prevent the eyes from sticking together again and they will then apply an antibiotic ointment to begin healing the infection.

Caring for Your Kitten's Eye Infection at Home

Once you are ready to head back home, your vet will provide you with any prescriptions your kitten needs and instructions for continued care.

Typically, instructions will include gently washing your kitten's eyes a couple of times a day with a clean, soft cloth to ensure that discharge doesn't build up; applying a warm compress; and then applying eye ointment or drops as prescribed.

You should always follow your vet's instructions closely. It is essential to finish the entire round of antibiotics as instructed, (finishing treatment before the infection has fully cleared could lead to a recurrence or other complications), and be diligent about keeping the bedding extra clean wherever the mother and kittens eat and rest.

How quickly does treatment work on eye infections in kittens?

Eye infections in kittens typically clear up very quickly once treatment begins. Even after your cat's symptoms have cleared up remember to continue administering medications as per your vet's instructions. If you stop using the antibiotic medication early it could lead to a resurgence of the infection and make it harder to fight.

If your kitten's eye infection is due to an underlying health condition the effectiveness and speed of the treatment will depend upon the condition being treated. Your vet will be able to provide you with a prognosis for your cat's recovery.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your kitten's eyes are showing signs of illness or issues, please contact our veterinary team in San Angelo right away.