What is Glaucoma? Glaucoma is a disorder that leads to elevated pressure within a cat’s eye. There are two types of glaucoma. Primary glaucoma is an inherited disease more prevalent in certain dog breeds than in cats. Typically, it starts in one eye but can affect both eyes. Secondary glaucoma can develop as a result of other eye diseases that have impacted proper drainage of the eye fluid known as aqueous fluid. The fluid pathway is called the drainage angle. It needs to be kept open in order to functional normally. In glaucoma, a buildup of fluids increases pressure and can destroy the retina and optic disk inside the eye.
How does my cat get Glaucoma? This rare condition in cats can be inherited, particularly in the Siamese breed. Or, it can occur as a result of chronic uveitis (eye inflammation), advanced cataracts, eye cancer or retinal detachment or an injury to the eye that damages the drainage angle.
How do I know if my cat has Glaucoma? On a regular basis, carefully look at your cat’s eyes because the signs can be subtle at first. You may notice that one or both eyes look red or bloodshot or the corneas appear cloudy. As the pressure builds within the eye, a cat may try to keep his eye shut or you will notice that the third eyelid covers the eye. Your cat may squint a lot or his eyes may be teary. Your veterinarian or a veterinary ophthalmologist will make the diagnosis after performing an eye exam that may include special tools that examine the retina. These tools, such as a slit lamp biomicroscope and a tonometer, will help determine the pressure level within the eye, any signs of injury or tumor, inflammation as well as the health of the retina and optic nerve. In addition, a biochemistry profile, complete blood count and other tests may be necessary to rule out toxoplasmosis, FIP (feline infectious peritonitis), FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and FeLV (feline leukemia).
What can I do about Glaucoma? Work with your veterinarian closely. Depending on the cause of your cat’s type of glaucoma, there are two main treatment options: medications or surgery. Your cat may respond well to eye drops or pills that slow down the progression of glaucoma but they do not cure this condition. Or, your cat may need surgery to relieve the intraocular pressure and be injected with a medication directly into the eye that kills the fluid-producing cells to alleviate the pressure. In severe cases, the eye must be surgically removed and the eyelids sutured shut or the cat fitted with an artificial eye.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting Glaucoma? Maintaining regular wellness exams for your cat can help spot changes in the eyes early. You may not be able to prevent glaucoma, especially the inherited form, but you can be proactive in your cat’s eye health and get immediate treatment. Untreated, vision loss and permanent blindness will occur.
Are there certain breeds that get glaucoma more often? Yes, the Siamese breed is most at risk for inheriting primary glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma can affect any cat of any breed, but the condition is extremely rare in cats. Glaucoma occurs in about 1.7 percent of dogs and less than half of that percentage in cats.