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With their unique appearance comes unique problems and challenges that are associated with the sphynx breed. One problem that this breed faces are eye problems and the issues that comes with it.
Sphynx cats are more prone to having eye problems compared to other cats. It’s much easier for this breed to pick up eye infections, ulcers, and viruses due to their unique eye structure and anatomy. They lack the necessary eye protection that other cats have.
According to a recent retrospective assessment with sphynx and non-Sphynx cats. It was found that Corneal sequestrum (corneal disease) and entropion (inward eyelids) were overrepresented and diagnosed at an earlier age in Sphynx cats.
The results show that sphynx cats were more susceptible to ocular issues compared to other cats. As well as certain eye issues being more common in the sphynx breed.
Even though more testing is required we have an idea that the problem is breed related therefore medical care and maintenance are more regularly required.
What Causes Eye Problems In Sphynx Cats?
The sphynx breed is a result of a Natural mutation that is presented in certain unusual traits. The hairless feature was not the only change this breed comes with. They lack eyelashes, have no eyelids or underdeveloped eyelids and they produce thick discharge.
All these features that the sphynx breed lack is a great disadvantage to them. These anatomical structures serve as their protective barrier. Without this barrier, their eyes are fully exposed to the natural elements within their surroundings.
The lack of eyelashes is a big disadvantage since the purpose of eyelashes is to protect the eyes from airborne dirt, dust, and other debris from reaching the delicate eye tissues. Once these foreign objects enter the eye they can cause irritation or inflammation and in severe cases, they can injure the delicate tissue of the eye.
The lack of eyelids is another protective mechanism and since the sphynx breed doesn’t have eyelids or probably has underdeveloped eyelids they are at risk. It’s easier for foreign objects to enter the eye causing damage and harm to eye tissue.
Sphynx cat’s eyes produce thick discharge which is actually the result of dust settling on the eye, which soon moves to the corner of the eye in the form of a light brown discharge. If not cleaned on time, the discharge dries and darkens, and can later become a breathing ground for infection
Different Types Of Eye Problems.
The cornea is the clear outer layer of the eye. Its clarity is essential for vision. A corneal sequestrum is a condition where a piece of the cornea has died off and is now taking on a brownish discoloration. The corneal sequestrum is gradually being rejected by the surrounding healthy corneal tissue.
The development of the sequestrum can initially be painless but with time, the affected eye will become sore as the sequestrum ‘erodes’ out of the surrounding healthy cornea.
We still do not know all the reasons why corneal sequestra develop and research on the problem is ongoing. However, the most common reason for the development of a corneal sequestrum appears to be breed-related and the sphynx breed is prone to this condition.
Another cause for the development of corneal sequestra is chronic corneal trauma – such as caused by the rubbing of eyelid hair in cats with in-turned lids (‘entropion’).
Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the eye’s conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is the mucous membrane that lines a cat’s upper and lower eyelids as well as its third eyelid and eyeball.
Conjunctivitis in cats often occurs acutely (as a short-term condition) and is considered painful. It is one of the most common eye diseases affecting cats. It presents with the conjunctival tissues being inflamed, red and swollen, causing excessive blinking, squinting, and the inability to fully open and close the eye.
This condition is caused by several infections such as feline herpes virus, Calicivirus as well as other disease-causing bacterial viruses.
Lower eyelid entropion
This is a condition where the eyelid turns inward so that the eyelashes rub against the eyeball, causing discomfort. A recent study by a vet ophthalmologist from Koret School of Veterinary Medicine found that entropion was overrepresented within the sphynx breed.
This means that this breed is more at risk of developing this eye condition. Entropion presents with redness, pain, watery eyes, and mucous discharge. It can also make the cat’s eye sensitive to light decreasing the cat’s vision.
Entropion is caused by muscle weakness, scars, infection, inflammation, or developmental complication.
A feline corneal ulcer is a wound that develops in the eye of the cat. This is a common condition affecting many household cats. Depending on the severity of the ulcer symptoms can vary.
Superficial ulcers affect only the epithelium, while deep ulcers go past the epithelium into the stroma. In more severe cases the wound extends further into the eye causing perforation.
The appearance of corneal ulcers in your cat could be a result of any of the countless causes such as:
- Infections by bacteria and viruses
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
- Dirt under the eyelid
- Injuries sustained.
The feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) is a highly contagious virus that is one of the major causes of upper respiratory infections in cats and kittens. One of the many potential long-term exposures to this virus is damage to the ocular and periocular tissues.
Symptoms of the active infection can include fever, lethargy, sneezing, ocular discharge, nasal discharge, and conjunctivitis. Corneal ulceration can be a complication of infection and when ulceration is present, ocular pain and cloudiness of the corneal tissues are noted.
Herpes can cause permanent scarring and damage to the conjunctival tissues and cornea of the eye. I recall an incident whereby a sphynx cat lost both eyes due to a severe case of the herpes virus which caused an ulcer.
This virus is extremely dangerous and immediate medical care and treatment are essential.
Is Watery Eyes Normal For Sphynx Cats?
Sphynx cats normally produce a thicker discharge in their eyes that may appear watery at times. In healthy sphynx cats, this secretion is transparent, or slightly brownish, and gelatinous in texture.
Normally, any irritation to the eye may present with Watery Eyes, which soon become red, swollen, and inflamed. This is literally the start of any kind of infection or eye issue.
If the sphynx eyes are watery and runny in a white or yellow-colored secretion, this may indicate infection.
Watery Eyes may not always mean that something is wrong, but it is good to observe it and watch for changes.
Another reason for Watery Eyes could be accidental. Since the sphynx breed is outgoing and playful they may accidentally injure themselves.
Ultimately watery or weepy eyes aren’t an immediate concern but if the issue persists with changes to the eye color and secretions. Then it’s important to consult with your local vet immediately. Eye infections and issues can be fatal if left untreated.
But with proper eye care and maintenance. You could avoid infections and most eye problems which they are prone to.
Eye Care For Sphynx Cats.
Apart from general grooming the sphynx breed requires consistent care and hygiene practices. This breed is a very high-maintenance breed and it’s difficult to care for them.
Their high maintenance requirements are so important that I’ve specifically written a post briefly outlining the requirements for owners to properly take care of them. Click here to read My article.
Eye Care is one of the necessary requirements and it’s vital for Sphynx owners to stick to a routine to make sure their eyes remain clean and free from possible infection.
Normally sphynx cats clean their own eyes. But this does not mean that their eyes always remain clean. This is when you as the owner must intervene.
The residue that is collected in the inner corners of the cat’s eye must be removed before it dries and darkens which can leave stains and create a breathing ground for infection.
A simple eye care routine you can follow includes:
1. Before you start to clean their eyes allow them a few minutes to settle and be still. You don’t want to perform these actions by force since you can injure their eyes.
2. Use a soft clean cloth or tissue dampened with warm water.
3. Without the use of chemicals or cleaning products. Just plain water can get the job done.
4. Gently wipe of inner corners of their eyes to remove the sticky residue that is collected.
5. If you leave their eyes uncleaned for longer periods of time this substance will dry and crust, making it more difficult to clean.
But a little effort with warm water is definitely enough to get them all cleaned up.
6. This process of cleaning should be done every day or every second day.
7. If your sphynx already has an eye condition it’s important to include their eye treatment in their eye care routine so you are reminded to administer the cream or drops on a daily basis.