Is your cat suddenly bumping into furniture? Does she have trouble finding her food bowl? Is he becoming unusually withdrawn or fearful? These sudden behavior changes can be an indication of a condition called “sudden blindness.” Causes for can include sudden trauma, high blood pressure, or a neurological event. In rare cases, the antibiotic enrofloxacin (brand name Baytril) can cause sudden blindness.
The difference between “sudden onset blindness” and “suddenly noticed blindness”
It is important to understand the difference between true sudden onset blindness, and suddenly noticed blindness. True sudden blindness usually occurs within hours, whereas suddenly noticed blindness is a condition that has been developing gradually over the course of weeks or even months, and often goes unnoticed by cat parents because cats are so good at adapting.
Signs of vision loss can include any of the following:
- cloudy, discolored or inflamed eyes
- large pupils that do not contract when hit by light
- cat startles easily
- confusion if a piece of furniture has been moved
- bumping into walls or furniture
- misjudging heights when jumping
Early treatment is critical for sudden onset blindness
Depending on the cause for the blindness, early treatment may be able to reverse the condition. For example, if the blindness is caused by high blood pressure, treating the cat with medication may allow a retina to reattach itself and the cat will regain some of his vision.
Unfortunately, even prompt care may not reverse blindness, whether the onset was truly sudden, or just suddenly noticed.
The good news is that, with a little extra care, cats can adapt well to being blind.