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Eye Drops for Cats

If your cat's eyes are looking red and irritated it can be tempting to reach for eye drops formulated for human use but many human medications and treatments are toxic to our feline friends. Today our Charlotte vets discuss eye drops to treat eye infections in cats.

Causes of Eye Infections in Cats

If your kitty is suffering from an uncomfortable eye infection the cause could either be an infectious or a non-infectious underlying condition.

Infectious Conditions that May Cause Eye Infections

  • Some of the most common infectious conditions that can lead to eye infections in cats are Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (also called feline herpesvirus type 1) and Feline Calicivirus. Both of these viruses are highly contagious among cats and are known to cause feline upper respiratory disease which can lead to symptoms such as eye infections. 

Non-Infectious Conditions that May Cause Eye Infections:

  • Viruses aren't the only cause of eye infections in cats. If your cat's eyes are sore and irritated it could be due to allergies, a foreign body in the eye, a hereditary eye condition, trauma, tumors, or even an autoimmune disease.
Contact your vet to book an examination for your cat in order to determine the cause of your cat's eye infection. Once a cause has been established treatment can begin. Left untreated eye infections can become severe and lead to serious complications.

Symptoms of Eye Infections in Cats

When your cat has an eye infection the symptoms can affect just one of your cat's eyes or both. In many cases, cats initially show symptoms just in one eye but the infection soon spreads to the other eye. In cases where your cat's eye infection is the result of an upper respiratory infection, your cat may also show cold-type symptoms such as nasal discharge and sneezing.

Common signs of eye infections in cats include:

  • Whites of the eye may turn red
  • Watery eyes
  • Discharge
  • Squinting or winking
  • Rubbing at one or both eyes
  • Third eyelid irritated or covering part of the eye

If your cat has any of the symptoms listed above book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Eye infections can quickly spread from one eye to the other and may cause more severe issues if left untreated.

Neosporin Eye Drops Are For People Not Cats

Do NOT use Neosporin or other human eye drops for cats. Human medications are often toxic or otherwise dangerous for animals, especially cats. Their compact size means that even the tiniest amounts of a toxic substance could put your cat's life at risk.

Neosporin is a staple found in many people's first aid kits. This topical antibiotic ointment can work very well on humans but it not recommended for cats. Cases have been reported of cats having life-threatening anaphylactic reactions to some of the antibiotic ingredients in Neosporin's ophthalmic preparations which include neomycin and polymyxin B.

Eye Drops for Cats & Other Treatments for Cat Eye Infections

The treatment that your vet prescribes for your cat's eye infection will be based on an assessment of your cat's overall health condition.

If your cat's eye infection is the primary concern, your vet may prescribe a topical treatment such as Terramycin® or  Vetropolycin®.

On the other hand, if your cat's eye infection is due to an underlying condition such as FeLV or Calicivirus the underlying condition will be the main focus of the treatment. Which treatment your vet prescribes will depend on the nature of the underlying disease but could include oral antibiotics or immune boosters.

Terramycin® Ophthalmic Ointment  - Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride

Terramycin eye ointment is a broad-spectrum treatment for eye infections in cats suffering from a range of eye conditions from conjunctivitis, keratitis, and pink eye, to corneal ulcers, blepharitis and bacterial inflammatory conditions that may occur secondary to other infectious diseases. 

Vetropolycin® Veterinary Ophthalmic Ointment - Bacitracin-Neomycin-Polymyxin

Vetropolycin® for cats is a triple antibiotic ointment often prescribed to treat bacterial infections of the eyelid and conjunctiva. 

Tetracycline Ophthalmic Ointment

Tetracycline for cats is used to treat eye issues caused by Chlamydophila or Mycoplasma conjunctivitis.

Azithromycin Oral Antibiotic

Azithromycin may be prescribed for the treatment of Chlamydophila or Mycoplasma conjunctivitis as well as any underlying bacterial infections which could affect your cat's eyes such as upper respiratory infections, and Bartonella.

Topical Corticosteroid Drops & Ointment

Cat eye inflammation can often be soothed using Corticosteroid drops or ointment. This medication is typically used to treat conjunctivitis, episcleritis, scleritis, pannus, and eosinophilic keratitis.


If your cat's eye infection is due to a feline herpes virus infection your vet may prescribe L-lysine as treatment. Studies are ongoing as to the effectiveness of this product however there is anecdotal evidence that L-lysine may help to suppress the symptoms of the virus. 

Interferon alpha-2b

Interferon alfa is an immunomodulatory (immune response booster) and antiviral prescribed by vets to treat viral conditions in cats such as Papillomatosis and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). Although studies are still ongoing regarding the effectiveness of this treatment your veterinarian may decide that it's worth trying to help your cat's body fight infections.

When To Expect Your Cat's Eyes to Get Better

Cat eye infections typically clear up very quickly once treatment begins. Even after your cat's symptoms have cleared up remember to continue administering medications as per your vet's instructions! Discontinuing your cat's antibiotic medication early could lead to a resurgence of the infection and make it harder to fight.

If your cat's eye infection is due to an underlying health condition the effectiveness and speed of the treatment will depend upon the condition being treated. Your vet will be able to provide you with a prognosis for your cat's recovery.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists our board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist in Charlotte provides advanced diagnosis and care for cats and dogs experiencing recurring or complex eye conditions. Contact us today to learn more.

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