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Cloudy Eye in Cats

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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A cloudy eye or increased opacity of the eye is associated with reduced transparency of either the cornea, the fluid media within the eye, or the lens. This change may be described as a "film" covering the eye or as an increased cloudy "whiteness" to the eye. Cloudiness of the eye may or may not be associated with a reduction in vision. The causes of a cloudy eye typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Cloudiness of the cornea, which may occur with corneal infections, corneal scarring, infiltrative inflammatory diseases of the cornea, fatty infiltration within the cornea, or corneal edema (fluid accumulation)

  • Cloudiness of the aqueous humor, which is the fluid that circulates within the front chamber of the eye. This may be due to the accumulation of white blood cells, protein, fatty lipids or blood.

  • Opacification or whitening of lens from cataract formation.

  • Disorders of the vitreous body, which is a gelatinous fluid between the lens and retina. These may include hemorrhage or inflammation.

    What to Watch For

  • Physical change in the appearance of one or both eyes
  • Possible decrease in vision with changes in behavior
  • Possible squinting. Some causes of a cloudy eye are painful; others are not.
  • Possible discharge from the eye
  • Possible redness to the eye


    Diagnostic tests are essential in determining the precise cause of the cloudy eye. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination

  • Complete ophthalmic examination including fluorescein staining of the cornea, Schirmer tear test, tonometry, slit-lamp biomicroscopy and indirect ophthalmoscopy.

  • Complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry serum tests

    Additional diagnostic tests may include:

  • Cytology, or microscopic examination of any inflammatory changes in the cornea

  • Bacterial culture of an infected cornea

  • Aspirate and analysis of any cloudy fluid from within the eye

  • Ultrasound examination of the eye if the retina cannot be examined

  • Gonioscopy of the normal eye if glaucoma is suspected. This uses an optical instrument called a gonioscope to examine the angle of the anterior chamber of the eye.

  • Certain serologic tests for infectious diseases


    Successful treatment depends on obtaining an accurate diagnosis as to what tissue of the eye is cloudy and what is the underlying cause of the problem.

    Home Care

    Optimal treatment for your cat requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up examinations can be critical to your pet's health. Also, do not delay in bringing your cat to the hospital for initial examination as some causes of a cloudy eye may result in a loss of vision within a very short period of time.

    In addition, do the following:

  • Observe the eye at least twice daily. Signs that may indicate a worsening condition include more obvious inflammation (redness), increased or altered discharge from the eye, pain (usually evident as squinting) or loss of vision.

  • If your cat's vision is compromised, minimize stress and risk of injury by confining him/her to a safe area until the cause of the problem is determined.

  • Do not allow your cat to rub or self-traumatize the eyes. To prevent self-inflicted damage you may need to obtain a protective collar (called an Elizabethan collar or E-collar) from your veterinarian.

  • Do not administer human over-the-counter medicines such as Visine or other ophthalmic products designed to "reduce eye redness" or irritation as the underlying cause of the problem must be identified.

  • Administer all medications as prescribed and alert your veterinarian if you have any difficulty treating your cat.

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