The conjunctiva, which is the clear mucous membrane that covers the front of the eye, can become infected in newborn kittens and tends to be noticeable not long after the eyes open for the first time. It's most commonly caused by a vaginal infection in the mother cat, but it can also be caused by bacteria in the kittens living environment, particularly if it's not clean enough for newborns. Here's some information about bacterial conjunctivitis in kittens and how to treat it:
Typical symptoms of conjunctivitis in kittens include a clear or cloudy discharge from the eye, localised redness and the eyelids sticking together. Fluid can build up around the eye socket and cause the eyelids to bulge, and if it's left untreated, conjunctivitis can damage the kitten's cornea. This occurs when bacteria eat through sections of the mucous membrane and cause corneal inflammation.
Your vet will examine the kitten and take details of their mother's health and the birth. They will use an ophthalmoscope to examine the cornea and check for signs of damage or trauma to the affected eye. A swab of the kitten's eye discharge will be taken and cultured to determine the strain of bacteria present. This will confirm the infection is bacterial in nature and allow the vet to make an effective treatment plan. They may also take a blood and urine sample to check for indicators of any underlying conditions that could cause eye symptoms similar to those observed in conjunctivitis.
Once your vet confirms your kitten has bacterial conjunctivitis, they will prescribe a course of topical or oral antibiotics. You will also be shown how to gently clean the kitten's eyes using warm compresses, and you'll have to do that a few times a day until the discharge stops.
Your vet will also need to examine the mother cat to determine if the kitten contracted conjunctivitis as a result of a bacterial infection in the birth canal. The mother cat can have this type of infection without displaying any obvious symptoms, and they will also need to be treated with antibiotics.
If the kitten has contracted conjunctivitis without the presence of an infection in their mother, your vet can provide advice on how to keep the kitten's living area clean, which is vital when caring for newborn cats, as their immune systems are still developing.
If your kitten is showing any symptoms associated with conjunctivitis, contact a local vet surgery to learn more about how to treat this condition.