Pale Gums and a Visible Third Eyelid in Cats

Pale gums can be a sign of anemia, and lethargy is a common side effect.
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If your cat's third eyelids are visible, she doesn't feel well. Meanwhile, pale gums -- symptoms of dehydration or low blood sugar -- can signify anemia. Each of these conditions is brought on by a variety of factors, and a vet needs to be seen for the proper care.


A heavy burden of intestinal parasites can cause both anemia, a deficiency of red blood cells, and Haws syndrome, the protrusion of the third eyelids. Kittens and adult strays are especially susceptible. The most common parasites are roundworms, coccidia, giardia and hookworms. Your vet can treat these parasites with a series of wormings. An infestation of external parasites, such as fleas, can also make a cat anemic. Anemia causes lethargy and loss of appetite; if left untreated it can be fatal.

Feline Leukemia Virus

Anemia is often seen in conjunction with feline leukemia virus. Although leukemia-virus-positive cats can live asymptomatic lives, most will spike high fevers and be susceptible to infections, including urinary tract infections. Feline leukemia virus cannot be cured, but vaccinations protect cats who go outside or are otherwise at high risk of exposure.

Other Common Causes

Any serious illness such as cancer or kidney disease can cause anemia, dehydration or low blood sugar. Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, or even prescription medications, can bring these on. Regardless of the cause, keeping your kitty monitored with regular blood work and exams by your veterinarian is crucial.

Eye Irritants and the Herpesvirus

The visibility of a cat’s third eyelid doesn't always mean a serious illness is involved. Cats are notorious for spiking fevers of unknown origin. A foreign object, or ulceration on the eye, can cause the third eyelid to appear. The herpesvirus is another common cause of eye problems. In adult cats, the virus can be dormant for long periods. Sudden swelling of the third eyelid, tends to coincide with times of stress, moving, traveling and the like. Certain homeopathic remedies can help prevent flareups, and eye medications from your vet can help the eyes be less irritated when swelling does occur.

Horner's Syndrome

Horner’s Syndrome involves the sudden swelling of the third eyelid. It usually affects only one eye, and a constricted pupil is noticeable. Horner’s is typically caused by trauma around the neck or head, and tends to resolve itself with time. Always check with your vet nonetheless to make sure there isn’t an underlying infection or tumor developing behind the eye.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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