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Blindness in Cats

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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Therapy for a blind pet always depends first on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous possible causes for blindness, and it is essential to identify the specific cause to initiate appropriate treatment.

Causes

Blindness can be caused by many different conditions, including:

  • Bilateral uveitis due to a systemic bacterial, viral, protozoal or fungal infection, or from a tumor

  • Hyphema (blood in the anterior chamber) secondary to ocular trauma, a blood clotting disorder, or systemic hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Cataract (dense opacity in the lens) formation

  • Lens luxation (displacement), particularly if complicated by cataract development

  • Glaucoma, which is sustained elevated pressures within the eye due to inadequate fluid drainage from the eye, resulting in damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma in the cat is most often secondary to chronic uveitis.

  • Chorioretinitis (inflammation of the choroid and retina) secondary to a bacterial, viral, protozoal, fungal or parasitic infection, or to a tumor

  • Retinal detachment secondary to systemic hypertension, a posterior segment tumor, or chorioretinitis

  • Nutritional retinal degeneration caused by taurine deficiency in the diet

  • Progressive retinal degeneration, a rare inherited condition of Abyssinian and certain domestic short-haired cats

  • Congenital underdevelopment of the optic nerves (very rare)

  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and the meninges that cover it) due to a viral, protozoal, fungal or bacterial infection

  • Neoplasia (tumor) involving the optic chiasm (location in the brain where both optic nerves meet and cross) or the visual pathways within the brain

  • Neoplasia involving the occipital cortex (visual center of the brain)

  • Hypoxia (inadequate oxygen supply to the brain) resulting in permanent brain injury

  • Head trauma with edema and hemorrhage

  • Traumatic avulsion (tearing away)of the optic nerves from the optic chiasm or from behind the eye

  • Hepatic encephalopathy (severe liver disease causing abnormal neurologic signs including disorientation and stupor) imitating vision loss.

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