Optic Neuritis In Cats: What Should You Know About It?


Optic nerve inflammation in cats –also called optic neuritis is a feline condition wherein one or both the optic nerves of a cat are swollen, which results in an impaired visual function. The cranial nerve or optic nerve, is a nerve in the eye, which takes visual info and transmits this info to the brain. The optic neuritis condition may affect the nervous and ophthalmic systems of the body. In this article, we will discuss some more interesting facts about optic neuritis including its causes, symptoms, prognosis, and treatment. Read on to learn about these and more!

What is Optic Neuritis in Cats?

Optic nerve inflammation or optic neuritis in cats may refer to a condition, which interferes with the function of the optic nerve, whether inflammation is existent or not, although it’s commonly is. Further, the optic nerve is the nerve that transmits signals and images from the retina through the brain so it might interpret what the eye perceives.

Moreover, optic neuritis may affect one or even both eyes and is commonly because of a secondary condition or an causal disease like those that affect the central nervous system or some kind of systemic infection, even though sometimes, the source is not known or idiopathic. Complementary deterioration of the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve completely blocks or disrupts the communication nerve with the brain.

The inflammation might be confined to just the optic nerve or it might involve the optic head. This may also damage the space in arrears the eye, thus resulting to retrobulbar neuritis. The condition may lead to the loss of nerve transference causing either complete or partial blindness. This is frequently unexpected in the beginning. Also, the early intervention might prevent permanent blindness. This is a very rare illness in cats.


  • Retrobulbar optic neuritis. Inflammation of optic nerve in arrears of the eyeball, yet with normal appearance of optic nerve head.
  • Papillitis. Also known as the intraocular optic neuritis, a certain kind of optic neuritis wherein the optic nerve head is being inflamed. Edema might or might not accompany inflammation.


The optic nerve inflammation unusually happens on its own, unless it’s in conjunction with systemic condition. Nonetheless, in some instances, the origin is not known, and may seem to happen spontaneously.

Here are some of the more common causes of optic nerve swelling in cats:

  • Hypertension
  • Retinal degeneration
  • Cancer of the eye
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Lead poisoning
  • Trauma
  • Inflammatory condition of the surrounding eye tissues
  • Bacterial or systemic fungal infection
  • Viral infection
  • Inflammatory brain disease


The symptoms of optic neuritis in cats include:

  • Diminished pupillary reflex to light
  • Inflamed optic nerve head
  • Distress
  • Sudden bumping in objects
  • Extreme disorientation
  • Headache
  • Pain when moving the eye
  • Inability to see clearly
  • Dilated and fixed pupils


The vet may start with a simple physical exam, including a thorough examination of the eye using an ophthalmoscope. Further, this may identify whatever existence of inflammation. If an inflammation is found, other tests may also be done.

A CBC, urinalysis, and blood test may help in detecting whatever causal infectious diseases there is, and the blood pressure level of the cat may be taken in order to determine if there is hypertension. In addition, if the said tests show a positive result, showing optic neuritis, the vet may refer you to a vet neurologist for supplementary tests.

In addition, a neurologist may conduct an ERG or electoretinogram, in order to determine the retina’s functionality. This particular procedure may involve sedation in getting a much clearer view of the inner eye. Also, a fluorescein dye may be infected through the bloodstream, in order to highlight the choroid and retina at the rear of the eye. Note, this is essential for the neurologist in determining the blood flow rate into the eye.

Treatment for Optic Neuritis in Cats

The treatment is hugely contingent on the main cause of the inflammation. The vet may discuss with you the important steps in addressing the causal condition of the condition in all instances, systemic corticosteroids, as well as topical medications are given to assist in reducing the swelling around the optic nerve. NSAIDs might also be recommended to assist in reducing the swelling. The medications might increase the urination, appetite, and thirst temporarily.

Pain medications might also be given as a course of antibiotics if a particular infection is ostensible. Additionally, if the cat is conceivably hypertensive, medication in controlling the blood pressure might be prescribed as well,

The vet might want to keep on monitoring the gastrointestinal, kidney, and liver functions, as well as the blood pressure throughout the treatment for any signs of adverse change. In case the cause of the condition is unknown, the vet may still prescribe some medications to assist in controlling the symptoms of the cat, as well as provide comfort as the cat makes some adjustments to the vision loss.


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