Have you noticed that your cat has watery eyes or dark crusty material around her eyes and nose?
Often, this dark gunk is nothing serious and is just a bit of a nuisance and gross to look at. If you have ever wondered what causes these black crusties and what you can do to remove them, then read on!
What is the black crust around my cat’s eyes?
The dark, crusty material you see around your cat’s eyes is generally just normal eye gunk. It is formed when the eyes produce a discharge in reaction to dust or allergens in the environment. When your pet frequently suffers from watery eyes, the discharge eventually turns black when it oxidizes or is exposed to sunlight.
The black gunk you see around your cat’s eyes might look worrying, but typically it is normal and should be nothing to worry about. Most cats tend to have a bit of this crusty build-up around their eyes and nose. As long as it does not cause any health issues and your pet is not bothered by the gunk, it should not be a problem.
However, if you notice any unusual discharge other than the usual black crust around the eyes, you should have your furry friend checked by the vet.
Are cats’ eye crusties normal?
The crusty material near your cat’s eyes or nose is not always a cause for medical concern. Some cats, and even dogs, produce more tears than others due to their genetics or breed type. Examples are Persians and Himalayan cats, both of which are prone to teary eyes due to their short noses and large eyes.
Normally, the tears produced around your feline’s eyes should be drained through the nasolacrimal ducts in the nose. When these ducts are blocked, however, the eye discharge spills out onto your cat’s face instead.
When the tears are left to oxidize upon contact with air, the eye discharge dries up and turns into a dark-colored material.
Unless your cat develops other symptoms such as swelling or a thick, mucus-like discharge, the crusties are likely normal and nothing to worry about.
Common eye discharge symptoms
While cat eye discharge is normal in most cases, if it is recurring and comes with other unusual symptoms, it might be best to have your pet checked by the vet.
Excessive tears or wetness around the eye area can be caused by several issues, and symptoms can therefore vary. You might notice your cat showing any of the signs below:
- Excessive wetness and swelling around the eyes
- Thick, mucus-like discharge
- Watery fluid streaming out around the eyes
- Gooey discharge or crusty material forming near the nose and eyes
- Redness or sore-looking eyes due to irritation
- Squinting or blinking frequently, as if there is something in the eyes
- Constantly pawing or rubbing the eyes against any surfaces
Causes of eye discharge in cats
Your cat’s eyes should normally be clear and bright. And, while some felines might produce more tears than others, this does not always warrant a visit to your vet.
However, when you notice your furry friend pawing at her eyes or rubbing them against furniture, along with an unusual eye discharge, then something is not right.
There are many possible causes of eye discharge; some are less serious while others could have devastating consequences such as blindness or tumors. It is therefore critical to consult your vet right away should you notice any signs of eye irritation or abnormal discharge.
Some of the common causes of eye discharge in cats include:
1. Dry eye syndrome
Medically termed keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eye syndrome is the result of poor tear production and changes in the tear film’s composition. The tear film is responsible for lubrication, removal of waste and debris, and delivery of oxygen and nutrition to the eyes. Dry eye syndrome often results in yellowish or mucus-like discharge, pigmentation, corneal ulceration, and irritated eyes. Without proper treatment, these symptoms could lead to permanent blindness.
Watery eyes could also be a sign of feline allergies. Just like humans, cats can be allergic to certain irritants in their environment such as mold, mildew, dust, pollen, strong scents or perfumes, and cleaning chemicals. If you suspect your cat has allergies, it is worth paying a visit to your veterinarian. He will likely perform a blood test to make a diagnosis and prescribe your cat medications to manage her allergies.
3. Corneal disorders
The cornea is a critical part of the eye that helps maintain proper vision. Corneal ulcers or injuries can affect all cats, but especially certain breeds such as Persians and Himalayans. Corneal disorders often cause the eye to appear cloudy and inflamed, and cats with corneal problems produce excessive eye discharge as well as frequent blinking due to discomfort and irritation.
Conjunctivitis or pink eye is another common eye problem that occurs in all cats. Aside from teary eyes, other symptoms are also apparent, such as inflammation around the eye lining, swelling, redness, and mucus-like discharge. You may also notice your cat becoming more sensitive to light if she has pink eye.
5. Epiphora or watery eyes
Epiphora is a condition that causes excess tears to overflow onto your cat’s face. Most cat owners report that watery eyes cause brown stains on their pet’s fur near the eyes, as well as regular wetness or dampness.
Epiphora can be triggered by viral conjunctivitis, allergies, swelling along with the tear drainage system, or trauma in the bones near the eyes. Some cat breeds with facial deformities, such as Persians, are more prone to developing watery eyes.
Crusties or gooey discharge from the eyes due to excessive tears might just be a cosmetic nuisance and hence should not cause you major concern. However, if your cat often gets watery eyes, it is best to have her checked by the vet to rule out serious eye problems.
Uveitis is a painful eye condition that occurs when the uvea, or internal structure of the cat’s eye, is inflamed. This eye problem is often triggered by trauma or immune disorders. Cats with this eye problem will paw at or avoid touching the affected eye. You will also notice your pet squinting or blinking repeatedly, and she might develop a fear of bright lights due to the pain and discomfort in her eye.
Uveitis might sound like a serious illness, but it is completely treatable. However, without proper veterinary care and treatments, the condition can lead to permanent blindness.
7. Respiratory infections
Upper respiratory infections can also cause watery eyes in your pets. The eye discharge can vary from a sticky, mucus-like consistency to a dark-colored substance, depending on the cause of the infection.
Some of the feline respiratory infections that trigger abnormal discharge from the eyes include the herpes virus, pneumonitis, and certain bacterial infections. Remember that these conditions are very contagious and might put other household pets at risk, so it is crucial that the infected cat is isolated and receives the appropriate treatments to keep the infection under control. Treatments might include decongestants, antibiotics, and eye medications.
Blepharitis is a rare eye problem in cats, characterized by redness, itchiness, and swelling due to inflamed eyelids. You might also notice hair loss around the affected eyes as well as crusty eyelids. Parasites, allergies, and skin infections are just some of the common problems that trigger eyelid inflammation in cats.
Cats with blepharitis tend to scratch or rub the areas near the eyes, causing secondary trauma to their facial tissues. While most cats respond well to treatment, some might not and it is likely for their condition to keep recurring.
9. Eye tumors
Eye tumors, such as conjunctival and eyelid tumors, can be benign or malignant and are quite challenging to treat in cats. To prevent the tumor cells from spreading further to other body parts, the cat will need to undergo a series of treatments including cryotherapy, radiation therapy, laser treatments, or complete removal of the eye.
10. Other causes
Other possible conditions that trigger watery discharge in cats are third eyelid protrusions, feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and foreign objects lodged in the eye. As soon as you notice any unusual eye discharge, redness or irritation, contact your vet right away. You can also have your cat checked by a veterinary eye specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
When to see your vet
While some eye discharges are normal, it is safest to have your cat checked by your vet, especially if the discharge is accompanied by unusual symptoms as mentioned above. Your cat’s eyes are extremely important, so you should never ignore subtle signs like eye discharge. If you notice that your pet regularly suffers from watery eyes, it might be worth paying a visit to your vet.
How to remove black crust from around your cat’s eyes
Often, the black crusts you see in your cat’s eyes are not a cause for serious concern. If the eye gunk does bother you or your cat, there are some steps you can take to keep the eye area clean, as follows:
- Clean the area around the eye daily with a clean cotton ball dipped in water
- Avoid using over-the-counter eye drops or washes unless they are prescribed by your vet
- Keep your cat away from irritants such as dust and chemicals
The black crust you see around your cat’s eyes is mostly normal unless accompanied by other abnormal symptoms such as swelling and redness. For your peace of mind, however, it may be safest to have your furry feline checked by the vet to rule out serious eye disorders. Correct treatment is critical for your cat’s well-being, so never ignore her symptoms, even if it is just a simple eye discharge.
Image: istockphoto.com / RoNeDya