Q. What could be wrong if my cat’s (two-year-old moggie) eyes seem to be watery most of the time?
A. Watery eyes are usually as a result of excess tear flow. Normally, tears are produced by tear glands and reach the eye via tear ducts. A second set of ducts drain excess tears away from the eyes and into the nasal passages. Irritation of the eyes by infections, inflammation, allergies and dust result in excess tear production and hence watery eyes. First, check that there is no excess dust or other irritant substances (aerosols and the like) in the cat’s environment. If none can be found, it is likely that your cat may suffer from an eye infection.
Common infections in cats (especially younger cats) are caused by viral (calicivirus, herpesvirus) or other infections (Chlamydophila felis, Mycoplasma felis). These infections are commonly accompanied by other symptoms, from swollen eyes, ulcers on the clear part of the eye and in the mouth and mild snuffles and sneezing, through to severe, occasionally even life-threatening illness. These symptoms typically occur early on, but the watery eyes may persist long after the other symptoms have cleared up. It is important to seek veterinary help as soon as possible in these cases.
A fairly common cause of ‘runny eyes’ with no other symptoms and a normal-appearing eye occurs when one or both of the tear ducts which drain tears away from the eye becomes blocked. One may see excessive dark brown staining of the fur just below the inner corners of the eyes, but the eyes themselves may not appear red or swollen. This condition may be diagnosed by your veterinarian by simply placing a special dye into the eye and looking for flow at the nostrils. The condition can be treated using eye drops, but may also require flushing of the ducts, usually under sedation or an anaesthetic.
Dr Phil Rees, veterinary specialist physician
Q. I have just acquired a new eight-week-old kitten, but cannot decide what to feed her. Which is the best, wet or dry food and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Kittens grow at a very rapid rate and often double in size from six to 10 weeks and again from 10 to 14 weeks. They need a high protein diet very high in digestibility to support this rapid growth rate. Many things affect the ability of kittens to absorb food. Gastro-intestinal viruses, infections like Giardia and Coccidia and intestinal parasites can all decrease the kitten’s ability to ingest and digest food, which can lead to dehydration and death. It is important that a kitten who is eating but has diarrhoea be checked by a vet before vomiting and loss of appetite starts. In these cases, it is often advisable to feed her a Veterinary Intestinal Formula for a time period.
A young and weak kitten often takes better to wet food than dry food initially. It is often tastier and easier to eat, as well as having the added benefit of supplying water with the food. Weak kittens who take to a wet food often do much better on a very high calorie food like Hills a/d or Eukanuba High Calorie initially. Wet or dry doesn’t really matter in a perfectly healthy kitten. The kitten will naturally drink more water if on a dry food.
The correct way to change a diet would depend on what diet the kitten is on before you change it. If the kitten is on a very good quality food and doing well, why change? If there is a medical reason to change food, for example diarrhoea, change to an intestinal formula straight away. If the kitten is healthy and a change of diet is preferred because of quality or accessibility of a product, do it gradually by mixing the food – two thirds old diet plus one third new diet for about four days. If no adverse reaction is noted, then mix half-half for another four days, then two thirds of the new food mixed with one third old food for four days, if possible. If no adverse reaction is noted, the new diet (on its own) is introduced in about 12 days. If you have run out of food, but cannot find the previous food, and you have a healthy kitten, pick a reputable brand that you can trust and start feeding that straight away in much smaller quantities for about two to three days before increasing it. Remember, when it comes to food, you get what you pay for!
Dr Jurie Grobler, veterinarian