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What Pet Parents Should Know About Glaucoma in Cats

What Pet Parents Should Know About Glaucoma in Cats

Glaucoma is a painful eye condition that can affect cats as well as humans and other animals. Glaucoma can strike your cat suddenly and quickly lead to blindness if left untreated. Our Greensboro veterinary ophthalmologist explains more about this painful condition and the treatments available if your cat is diagnosed with glaucoma.

Glaucoma in Cats

When your cat has healthy eyes, the pressure within each eye is maintained by an ongoing cycle of fluid production and drainage. Glaucoma is increased pressure on your cat's eye caused by a failure of the eye's drainage system. The increased pressure on the eye can then lead to the destruction of the cat's retina and optic disk, where the optic nerve enters the eye.

What are the causes of glaucoma in cats?

Primary glaucoma is usually caused by an issue in how the eye has developed and tends to be very rare in cats, although certain breeds such as Siamese, Persian, and Burmese cats are more likely to develop glaucoma than other breeds. Primary glaucoma usually begins in one eye, but it eventually involves both eyes and leads to complete blindness.

Secondary glaucoma is much more common in cats and is typically due to uveitis, (which is inflammation inside the eye), or advanced cataracts, tumors, or retinal detachment.

What are the common symptoms of glaucoma in cats?

Although this condition is very painful, cats tend to be very good at hiding symptoms of glaucoma. That's why it's important for pet parents to know the signs of glaucoma so that they can seek treatment for their pet as early as possible. Subtle signs of pain or illness in cats include hiding, becoming less affectionate than normal and reduced grooming. Other signs of glaucoma in cats can include partially closed eye, pawing at eyes, watery discharge, obvious swelling or bulging of the eyeball, bloodshot eye, cloudiness of eye, dilated pupil or blindness.

How does the vet diagnose glaucoma in cats?

Your vet will first look for common symptoms of the condition, then to confirm a diagnosis of glaucoma your veterinary ophthalmologist will measure the pressures of your cat's eyes, using a special piece of equipment called a Tonopen. 

Can glaucoma in cats be treated and cured?

Unfortunately, cats are able to hide signs of pain extremely well, meaning that the symptoms of glaucoma are often not picked up until the disease has progressed. In many cases, by the time the cat sees a vet they have permanently lost their eyesight, and treatment will be focused on pain relief. However, if diagnosed early, treatment may include a combination of surgery and medications to reduce eye pressure, preserve vision, and manage pain.

Eye Drops & Medications

There are a number of different eye drops and pills available to help decrease fluid production or increase fluid drainage from the cat's eye, although they are not generally effective for controlling glaucoma in long term. These treatments are most often used to help prevent or delay the onset of glaucoma in the remaining eye, and as a temporary treatment until surgery can be performed in the cat's affected eye.


Surgical treatments are available for glaucoma in cats, but the type of surgery will depend on whether your cat still has the potential for vision.

  • For cats that are still able to see, a veterinary ophthalmologist may be able to reduce the eye's pressure by performing a cycloablation procedure and a drainage implant procedure.
  • If your cat has already lost their vision, your veterinary specialist may recommend the removal of eye in order to help relieve the pain caused by glaucoma.

What is a veterinary ophthalmologist?

A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist has completed advanced training in ophthalmology that meets American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) guidelines. This training includes successfully completing an internship, residency program, and intensive examinations.

Our board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist at Carolina Veterinary Specialists offers services to diagnose and treat eye problems in Greensboro pets including tumors, eyelid issues, infections, drainage, glaucoma, cataracts and more.

Acute glaucoma is a veterinary emergency! If you live in the Greensboro area and your cat suddenly begins showing symptoms of glaucoma head to our emergency animal hospital immediately for urgent care. If your primary care vet has diagnosed your cat with glaucoma, request a referral to have your can seen by our board-certified ophthalmologist for advanced eye care.

Caring for Pets in Greensboro

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Greensboro accepts new clients to our specialty services by referral. Our 24/7 emergency service accepts all clients.

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