Feline Glaucoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

As loving pet owners, we all strive to provide the best care possible for our furry friends. While we often hear about diseases like kidney disease or diabetes in cats, glaucoma, a serious eye condition, is somewhat less discussed. Despite this, it is vital for cat owners to understand this condition, as early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly improve a cat’s quality of life. In this article, we’ll explore what feline glaucoma is, its causes and symptoms, and various treatment options available.

Understanding Feline Glaucoma

Glaucoma in cats is a condition characterized by increased pressure within the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP). This increase can lead to damage to the optic nerve, potentially resulting in loss of vision if not managed effectively. In most cats, glaucoma is a secondary condition, meaning it is usually the result of other underlying eye conditions or systemic diseases.

Symptoms of Feline Glaucoma

Symptoms of feline glaucoma can vary but often include excessive tearing, apparent eye pain (squinting, pawing at the eye, or sensitivity to light), a cloudy cornea, dilated pupils, and in severe cases, an enlarged or bulging eye. If your feline friend displays any of these symptoms, it’s essential to seek veterinary care immediately, as glaucoma can progress quickly and lead to irreversible vision loss.

Causes of Feline Glaucoma

In contrast to dogs, where primary glaucoma (occurring without an identifiable underlying cause) is common, most feline glaucomas are secondary to other conditions. These may include chronic intraocular inflammation, lens displacement, or even cancer.

Treating Glaucoma in Cats

Treatment of feline glaucoma aims at reducing the IOP to prevent further damage to the optic nerve and alleviate discomfort. The chosen treatment regimen largely depends on whether the glaucoma is primary or secondary, and the general health of the cat.


Medication is often the first line of treatment for feline glaucoma. Topical medications like Dorzolamide (Trusopt®) and Brinzolamide (Azopt®) are carbonic anhydrase inhibitors often used to decrease the production of aqueous humor, thus lowering IOP. Timolol, a beta-blocker, is also effective in reducing intraocular pressure and is available as a combination drug with dorzolamide, making it particularly useful for cats.

Prostaglandin analogues, such as Latanoprost, are useful for treating cases of acute primary glaucoma, as they can quickly reduce IOP. It’s also worth noting that Mannitol, an intravenous osmotic diuretic, can be used in emergencies to lower IOP rapidly.


In severe cases or when medication is not effective, surgical interventions might be necessary. Surgical options include lensectomy, particularly in cases with lens displacement, and other procedures aimed at improving the drainage of aqueous humor.


Caring for a cat with glaucoma can be challenging, and it’s crucial to work closely with your veterinarian to provide the best treatment plan for your pet. With the right approach, many cats with glaucoma can maintain a good quality of life. Remember, early detection is key in managing this condition, so regular veterinary check-ups are essential in maintaining your pet’s eye health.


1. What is the typical progression of feline glaucoma?

The progression of feline glaucoma is often linked to the underlying cause. If glaucoma results from a chronic disease, such as uveitis, the progression might be slow and subtle, taking months or even years. In contrast, acute cases can escalate within hours or days, often causing significant discomfort and rapid vision loss if not addressed promptly.

2. How often should a cat with glaucoma be checked by a vet?

After a diagnosis of glaucoma, frequent follow-ups with your vet are crucial. Initially, weekly or bi-weekly check-ups may be necessary to ensure the treatment regimen is effectively controlling the IOP. Once the condition is stabilized, your vet may recommend check-ups every 3-6 months or more frequently if changes are noted in your cat’s condition.

3. Can diet or lifestyle changes help manage feline glaucoma?

While there’s no specific diet known to prevent or treat feline glaucoma, a balanced, nutritious diet is always important for overall health. Likewise, regular play and exercise can help keep your cat’s weight in check, minimizing the risk of systemic diseases that could potentially lead to secondary glaucoma.

4. What precautions should I take at home for a cat with glaucoma?

Creating a safe and comfortable environment is crucial. Since cats with glaucoma may have impaired vision, keep the layout of your home consistent to prevent accidents. Avoid direct bright lights as they can cause discomfort. Monitor your cat for signs of pain such as loss of appetite, lethargy, or changes in behavior, as these may indicate a need for adjustment in their treatment plan.

5. Can cats with glaucoma still lead a good quality of life?

Yes, many cats with glaucoma can still lead a good quality of life, especially when the condition is detected early and managed properly. The goal of treatment is to alleviate discomfort and slow the progression of the disease. With consistent care and regular veterinary visits, your feline companion can continue to enjoy its daily activities.

6. Is glaucoma contagious among cats?

No, glaucoma is not contagious. It is a condition resulting from an increase in intraocular pressure, often secondary to other underlying conditions. It does not spread from one cat to another. However, if you have multiple cats, it’s always a good practice to monitor each cat’s eye health, as some underlying causes of glaucoma, like certain infectious diseases, can affect multiple pets in a household.

7. What are the risk factors for developing glaucoma in cats?

While any cat can develop glaucoma, certain risk factors may increase its likelihood. These include older age, pre-existing eye conditions such as uveitis or lens luxation, certain breeds with predispositions to eye disorders (like Siamese), and systemic diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes which can affect eye health.

8. What are the possible side effects of medication for feline glaucoma?

The side effects vary depending on the type of medication used. Some cats might experience local irritation, redness, or discomfort at the application site. Systemic side effects are less common but can include changes in appetite, lethargy, or changes in behavior. Always discuss potential side effects with your vet before starting any new medication.

9. Can glaucoma lead to complete blindness in cats?

Unfortunately, if left untreated or in severe cases, glaucoma can lead to irreversible damage to the optic nerve, resulting in blindness. However, with early detection and appropriate treatment, many cats can maintain functional vision for years.

10. How can I make sure my cat is comfortable if it has lost vision due to glaucoma?

Cats rely on more than just vision to navigate their world. Even after vision loss, they can lead happy and fulfilling lives. Keep your home layout consistent and free of hazards, provide toys that stimulate other senses (like toys with bells or catnip), and give lots of love and attention. Regular check-ups are also important to ensure that the glaucoma is managed and not causing discomfort.

11. Are there any alternative treatments for feline glaucoma?

There are ongoing studies into new treatments for glaucoma, including the use of diet supplements and alternative medicines. However, these are not yet widely accepted or recommended as first-line treatments. Always discuss any potential alternative treatments with your vet before starting them to ensure they’re safe and won’t interfere with your cat’s current treatment plan.

12. If one of my cat’s eyes is affected by glaucoma, will the other eye get it too?

It’s not a certainty, but it is a possibility, especially in cases of primary glaucoma. Regular check-ups will help monitor the health of the unaffected eye and allow for early intervention if glaucoma starts to develop.

13. Can feline glaucoma recur after treatment?

Glaucoma in cats is a chronic condition that, even with treatment, can have periods of recurrence. This is particularly true for secondary glaucoma where the underlying cause, such as uveitis or trauma, may continue to cause increased intraocular pressure.

14. Does a cat with glaucoma require a special diet?

While there is no specific diet to treat glaucoma, maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for overall health. Some studies suggest that antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids could have potential benefits for eye health, but it’s essential to discuss dietary changes with your vet.

15. How does high blood pressure relate to glaucoma in cats?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eye, leading to conditions like retinal detachment or hemorrhage, which can increase the risk of glaucoma. Regular monitoring of blood pressure is crucial in older cats or cats with conditions like kidney disease, which can lead to hypertension.

16. Is surgery an option for treating glaucoma in cats?

Yes, surgery is an option for certain cases, especially when medical management is insufficient to control intraocular pressure or if the glaucoma is causing significant pain. Surgical options could include procedures to improve fluid drainage or, in severe cases, removal of the affected eye (enucleation) to alleviate pain.

17. Can glaucoma be prevented in cats?

While there’s no surefire way to prevent glaucoma, regular eye examinations can help catch early signs of increased intraocular pressure or other eye conditions that may lead to glaucoma, allowing for early intervention.

18. How does aging affect the risk of glaucoma in cats?

Just like in humans, the risk of developing glaucoma in cats increases with age. This is due to the natural wear and tear on the body’s systems, including the eyes, which can result in conditions like increased intraocular pressure.

19. What is the difference between primary and secondary glaucoma in cats?

Primary glaucoma is a genetic condition resulting from an inherent defect in the eye’s fluid drainage mechanism. It’s less common in cats compared to dogs. Secondary glaucoma, which is more common in cats, occurs as a result of other eye conditions like uveitis, lens luxation, or trauma that block the outflow of fluid.

20. How can I tell if my cat is in pain due to glaucoma?

Cats are masters at hiding pain, so subtle signs might be your first clue. These can include changes in behavior, reduced activity, loss of appetite, or excessive blinking or squinting. The eye may appear red, cloudy, or larger than usual. If you notice these signs, contact your vet immediately as they might indicate increased intraocular pressure which needs immediate attention.

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