Ocular (Eye) Trauma in Small Mammals

Ocular trauma is the result of blunt or sharp forces inflicted directly to the eye. Blunt injuries to the eye are sustained when flat or blunt objects strike the surface of the eye and are more often associated with major eye damage than sharp trauma. These concussive forces can result in proptosis of the eye, which is forward displacement or bulging of the eye from the bony eye socket (orbit), lens luxation (displacement), hyphema (bleeding within the front chamber of the eye), retinal detachment, and rupture with collapse of the eyeball (globe).

Sharp injuries occur when piercing, pointed or jagged objects forcefully connect with the eye. Common examples include cat claw injuries, thorns, branches, umbrella points, writing instruments, or small airborne objects. Potential injuries include laceration of the eyelids, surface abrasion, laceration or perforation (rupture) of the cornea, hyphema, lens displacement or lens capsule tear with cataract formation. Sharp ocular injuries are less often associated with explosive globe rupture and loss of intraocular contents.

Ocular trauma can affect pets of any age. Younger animals are more likely to act without caution around cats capable of inflicting claw injuries. They are also more likely to stray from their owners and become injured by other animals or be involved in road accidents. Outdoor cats are more prone to ocular trauma and are also more likely to encounter other unrestrained or wild animals and vehicles. Non-neutered male cats are more prone to roaming and are at a higher risk for traumatic injuries.

What to Watch For


Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the severity and extent of the injuries that were sustained by the eye and to determine subsequent treatment.

There are several potential diagnostic tests. Recommendations depend upon the likelihood of the potential diagnosis, the species and cost concerns. These tests may include:


Treatment depends on the extent and severity of the ocular injuries. There is no "general" treatment for this symptom. Treatment may involve either medical, or medical and surgical intervention to stabilize the ocular injuries.

Home Care

Seeking immediate veterinary medical attention is critical as many forms of ocular trauma are vision threatening and most are associated with significant discomfort or pain.

Keep your pet quiet and confined to a safe area in order to minimize further injury if vision appears to be impaired. Do not allow him to rub excessively or traumatize the injured eyes. A protective collar called an Elizabethan collar may be necessary to ensure this and may be obtained from your veterinarian.

Proptosed globes are eyes traumatically displaced from their sockets and should be lubricated with a moist clean cloth or K-Y jelly during transport to the hospital to prevent the eye from becoming dry or injured further.

Do not administer human over-the-counter medicines such as VisineĀ® or other ophthalmic products designed to 'reduce eye redness' or irritation as the extent of the injury must be identified and appropriately treated.

Preventive Care

Gently clean away any eye discharge with a warm moist cloth as needed until the cause of the problem is identified. Do not allow your pet to rub or traumatize the eyes.

Do not delay in bringing your pet to the hospital for examination as some causes of excessive ocular discharge are potentially vision threatening and require immediate medical attention.