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Ocular (Eye) Pain and Squinting in Cats

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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Diagnostic tests used to determine the cause of the eye pain are chosen by your veterinarian based on the findings from the ophthalmic examination, physical examination, prior history of ophthalmic disease, and response to prior treatment. Be sure to inform your veterinarian of all medications currently being administered to your pet.

  • Complete medical history and physical examination. Historical information regarding both prior and on-going ophthalmic conditions is important to determine if current symptoms represent chronic or acute ophthalmic disease.

  • Complete ophthalmic examination including a Schirmer tear test, fluorescein staining of the cornea, tonometry, examination of the eyelids and surface of the eye with magnification (such as slit-lamp biomicroscopy), and detailed examination of the front and back portions of the eye. A thorough eye examination may only be possible after topical local anesthetic solutions have been administered, and the squinting has been relieved (temporarily). Some cats are so extremely painful that ocular examination may require sedation of the animal.

    Your veterinarian may recommend other diagnostic tests on a case-by-case basis, such as:

  • Ocular ultrasound to visualize details within an eye obscured by inflammation, blood, tumor, lens luxation, cataract or a miotic (constricted) pupil. A veterinary ophthalmologist or radiologist may perform or interpret this test for your veterinarian.

  • Cytology (complete cell analysis) and culture of cells collected from corneal wounds or ulcers to evaluate the presence of infectious organisms.

  • Complete blood count to evaluate for presence of infection, anemia, and low numbers of platelets

  • Biochemistry tests to look for other organ diseases, such as secondary conditions and concurrent problems, and to minimize anesthetic risk

  • Assays for the common viral diseases of cats, such as feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline infectious peritonitis virus, feline herpesvirus and calicivirus

  • X-rays of the head and bony orbit to identify fractures in cats that sustained head and eye injuries

  • Computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the eye and orbit

  • Blood pressure testing to identify elevated blood pressure that is diagnostic for systemic hypertension

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