Corneal Ulcers in Cats

PetMD Editorial
Oct 10, 2012
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Ulcerative Keratitis in Cats

The cornea — the transparent part of the eye — forms a cover over the iris and pupil. It also admits light to the inside of the eye, making vision possible. A corneal ulcer occurs when deeper layers of the cornea are lost; these ulcers are classified as either superficial or deep. If your cat is squinting or its eyes are tearing excessively, there is a possibility of a corneal ulcer (or ulcerative keratitis).

Symptoms and Types

  • Red, painful eye
  • Watery eye
  • Squinting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Rubbing at the eyes with a paw
  • Eye may remain closed
  • Eye discharge
  • Film over the eye


  • Trauma — blunt or penetrating
  • Disease
  • Tear deficiency
  • Infection
  • Cannot close the eyelids completely
  • Paralysis of facial nerve
  • Foreign body
  • Burns from a chemical substance

Wounds are often the cause, usually from playing or scuffling with another cat or with a dog. However, there also may be a foreign object under the eyelid.

Breeds with short faces (i.e., brachycephalic breeds), such as Persians and Himalayans, are more prone to corneal ulcers


Your vet will conduct a thorough eye examination, including an inspection of the eye and cornea. Diagnostic dyes are often used to look for corneal erosions or ulcers. In addition, samples will be collected and cultured for bacteria and fungi — this will also rule out conjunctivitis. Blood tests may be done to rule out any viral infections.

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