Eye Herpes in Cats

Healthy eyes are clear and discharge-free.

Healthy eyes are clear and discharge-free.

Kitty needs his eyes to get around. He uses them to help him hunt and to leap onto the top of a bookcase by judging the distance. Feline herpesvirus cannot only cause the feline version of the flu, but can infect his eyes. If left untreated, Kitty could lose his eyesight.

Ocular Herpes

When the feline herpesvirus, FHV-1, infects Kitty's eyes, it's called ocular herpes. The first signs that kitty has FHV-1 are if he starts to come down with a case of the sniffles. He'll cough, sneeze, have a runny nose and may have difficulty breathing. He should visit his vet immediately to prevent the disease from causing complications in his eyes. If the virus infects his eyes, it will commonly cause conjunctivitis, or pink eye. It can also cause swelling of his eyes, discharge and even lesions and ulcers.

Affecting His Eyesight

If left untreated, FHV-1 could lead to scarring on Kitty's cornea. If Kitty's cornea is scarred, he won't be able to see as well. He'll need antiviral drops or an ointment for his eyes to help inhibit the virus. However, these drugs will not kill the virus or completely get rid of it. Once Kitty is infected, it's likely he'll always be infected. The virus can go dormant for long periods of time and get him sick from time to time. If he keeps getting sick, long-term treatment may be required.

How Did He Get It?

FHV-1 is extremely common, and according to the VetInfo website, as many as 90 percent of cats are infected. In most cats, the virus stays dormant and the kitty may only get a little cold now and then. Even if the virus is dormant, he can still pass it on to other cats, but not to humans. He can get the disease by being around an infected cat, or he may have got it from Mom. FHV-1 can be passed from an infected mother to her kittens, even before they are born.

Protecting Kitty

The best way to prevent FHV-1 is to get your fur ball vaccinated against the virus. Since it can be asymptomatic, meaning his buddies at home could have it and show no symptoms, he could be at risk from a seemingly healthy cat. Just because his feline pal didn't get sick from the virus, doesn't mean it couldn't cause ocular herpes if he becomes exposed. Speak with his vet about when he can get vaccinated against FHV-1. If Kitty is already infected, flare-ups are usually brought on when he gets stressed out. Keeping his environment low-key and stress-free will help prevent him from getting a really nasty eye infection.

About the Author

Melissa Schindler has been writing professionally since 2010. She writes about pets, animals, technology and parenting for various websites. Also a fiction writer, she is author of "Houston After Dark." She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images