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Swollen eye in older cat.

Species: Cat
Breed: domestic shorthair
Age: 11-15 years
Hello - I have a 13-yr cat with renal issues (diagnosed 2 yrs ago) - but she has been doing great - giving subQ fluids every day and predisanlone to deal with ongoing diarreah.

Her blood work was just done a couple of weeks ago and doing great - until yesterday.

I had begun to notice - maybe in the last week - some noises in her breathing - not sure I'd call it wheezing - but it made me wonder if she had fluid in her lungs.

Yesterday it go much worse AND her lower left eye is terriblly bloodshot.

This morning was a little better - took her to our vet and he gave eye drops and said decrease fluids to every other day for a week, but increase steroids to 2x a day for a week. He also took an xray and said everything looked fine.

I was out, and came home to check on her at 2 and she was up and eating and looked good. I left to do another errand, but had forgotten something and came back -- within 5 minutes of her being fine! She looked awful - eye was almost shut closed - very red/bloodshot; her whole body twitches, making more of those odd noises; help? It's Saturday 4pm here and I don't want to take her to emergency hospital unless necessary, where they push you to drop a thousand dollars or more. I have a video of these noises and tremors


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

These are very odd symptoms. I can't say that any particular cause for them is coming to mind.

It is really uncommon to see a red swollen eye in an older cat. A swollen eye could be because of exposure to a virus that can cause conjunctivitis. However, this should not cause her to have body twitches. Thank you for sending the video. Unfortunately I can't really see your cat well on it. It's hard to say whether this is some type of seizure or perhaps shaking because of pain.

A sudden red, swollen eye in an older cat could be a sign of a tumor behind the eye, an abscess behind the eye (called a retrobulbar abscess) or possibly a serious dental problem. Another possibility is that she has scratched her eye somehow and has a corneal ulcer.

All of these are pretty serious and I would recommend an emergency visit unfortunately. If there is an ulcer on the eye and we wait too long it can be the difference between treating with a few drops and possibly needing surgery or even losing all of her vision in this eye.

If you do go to emergency, you can tell them that for today you only want the essentials done. They will likely assess the eye and can give medication for pain if that seems warranted. If possible, they may be able to defer any necessary tests until you can see your regular vet during regular office hours.

If you do find out what is going on, feel free to post back here and let me know.

I hope things work out ok.

Dr. Marie



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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you. I've been trying to find the right way to describe her eye and last night tried googling eye hemorrhage - and that led to an article about high blood pressure.

That accurately described the blood I see in her eye, and I do think that is the problem - though you're right, it doesn't explain the tremors and coughs (I didn't think that video would help much - black cat on black clothes in a dark drawer! sorry! Her coughing could barely be heard on it...

is there any connection between high blood pressure and those kinds of noises?

We actually do have benazepril and had been giving every other day - and had missed some doses, so I'm afraid that brought this on. I gave her one this morning (she's a bit better--no coughing, just the blood in her eye).

High blood pressure would also explain how these symptoms came on so suddenly.
thanks again; so good to know a resource like yours is available, esp. on a weekend!


Customer reply:

I just sent a photo of her eye, at least as good as I can get her to look at the camera! It is, though, open today--yesterday she was keeping it shut.

Yesterday the vet talked about conjunctivitis and sent us home with Dexamethasone Ophthalmic Solution to give 2x a day.

If this IS high blood pressure, will those drops cause any harm to her eye?

thank you!


Customer reply:

latest update - she again seemed better this morning. I went out and just got back - she had a long line of drool hanging from her mouth and was twitching again, lethargic, etc. I am going to take her in; just can't understand why she seems better in the morning (eats, drinks, talks), then goes downhill in the afternoon
thank you for your response


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

My apologies for the delay. I wasn't online very much yesterday with it being a Sunday.

Thank you for sending me the photo of your beautiful cat. :)

hyphema in a cat's eye

While I can't say for certain what this is without examining the eye it really looks like hyphema. Hyphema in cats in another way of saying that there is blood in the front chamber of the eye. There are several possible reasons, but none that fully explain her other symptoms.

High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension can cause hyphema. Some cats can have high blood pressure as a result of hyperthryoidism and can also have heart problems at the same time. This can cause some things that look like seizures...but really shouldn't cause drooling.

A tumor in the eye would be my biggest concern. It wouldn't directly cause drooling, but if there is a tumor in one place, there can be tumors in other places as well. It may be that something is affecting her mouth as well and causing the drooling and maybe affecting her brain and causing the tremors.

Please do update me once you have had her checked again. I wish I had more answers for you but it does sound like something serious unfortunately.

Dr. Marie.



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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.