October 2008 Issue

Feline Vision Problems: A Host of Possible Causes

In most cases, early diagnosis and treatment can keep a cat from losing its eyesight.

Owing to several unique features developed over centuries in the wild, the modern cat typically possesses powerful visual acuity that enables it to function effectively both indoors and beyond the confines of its home. Unfortunately, the feline ocular apparatus is vulnerable to injuries and a wide variety of diseases that can dramatically impair a catís eyesight or, worst case, render it partially or totally blind. "We see cats that are either blind or going blind several times a week," says Thomas Kern, DVM, associate professor of ophthalmology at Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicine. "Most of these animals have eye disease as a primary disorder ó they have no other health problems. And most of them are middle-aged or elderly cats whose vision loss has been progressing for years." As is true for virtually all threats to feline health, the earlier a catís vision problem is diagnosed, the more effectively it can be treated ó unless, of course, the animalís blindness has progressed irreversibly by the time it is noticed. Therefore, Dr. Kern urges owners to keep an eye out for any behavioral or physical indications that a cat is having a vision problem and to report any such signs to a veterinarian without delay.

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