Letting my mind wander back to my childhood years, I clearly remember waking up many a morning with white mucus stuck in the corners of my eyes. Sometimes it actually made my eyelids seem glued together. A warm, wet washcloth rubbed over my eyes usually took care of the problem, and off to school I would go.
Other kids had the same problem, and though it never led to any major health problems for any of us, I have often wondered what caused the mucus to build up overnight. Nowadays, I rarely hear anything on this topic, and my children were never bothered by that yucky discharge in their eyes.
Morning “Eye Boogers”
According to Michael Dym, VMD, many pet owners want to know why their pets have crust or “eye boogers” (oh, what a lovely name for it) in the corners of their eyes in the mornings. With the most common cause being airborne allergens, just as with humans, most cases concerning pets do not point to a significant problem. (Related: When Your Cat Has Allergies)
Most of the time, medical treatment is not required and the owners are advised to wipe away the morning eye mucus with a wet cloth or use eye drops.
Atypical eye discharge is, however, a sign of a problem. In some cases, mucus could be caused by a simple cold — or in a worse-case scenario, a more serious illness could be the culprit.
The type of discharge helps clarify the cause:
- Clear discharge with no redness or pain points toward a problem in the tear duct department.
- Clear discharge with redness in the eye could indicate conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink eye), such as from a viral infection.
- Puslike discharge (green or yellow), sticky and stinky, along with a red eye, could indicate conjunctivitis, such as from a bacterial infection.
- Discharge accompanied by pain in the eye could be a sign of cornea or inner eye problems. Signs that your cat is in pain may include constantly pawing at her eye, excessive tearing or sensitivity to light.
Bacteria can breed in that mucus, causing eye infections. So, once again, I have to use the old adage, “Prevention is the best cure.”
Check your cat’s eyes often for redness, changes in color or shape, or discharge. Avoid overcrowding in a multi-cat household, and keep up with her yearly vaccinations. The ASPCA offers these tips to safely wipe a cat’s eyes:
- Dip a cotton ball in water.
- Using a different cotton ball for each eye, wipe away the discharge.
- Stay away from over-the-counter eye drops or eye washes, unless your veterinarian prescribes them.
Here is a short video from the ASPCA that explains more about cleaning a cat’s eyes:
Because you love your kitty and because proper care is so important to her health and happiness, always discuss any eye problems with your veterinarian. Without the right diagnosis and treatments, eye problems — even something that seems as minor as cat “eye boogers” — can become a major health issue.
- Michael Dym, VMD: Managing eye discharge in pets
- WebMD Pets: Eye discharge in cats
- ASPCA: Top tips for keeping kitty’s eyes healthy
Photo: Gamma Man/Flickr