Q: Please review diagnosis and management of feline uveitis.
A: Dr. Mark P. Nasisse at the 2005 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum in Baltimore gave a lecture on feline
uveitis. Some relevant points in this lecture are provided below.
The most sensitive indicator of intra-ocular inflammation is decreased intraocular pressure that is attributable to decreased
aqueous humor production and increased uveoscleral outflow. The clinical sign frequently described is aqueous flare. Changes
in iris surface topography and pupil size and shape are seen in uveitis of any cause and represent the accumulation of inflammatory
cells or fluid in the iris stroma. Iris color change is a frequent concomitant finding. Chronic uveitis may include focal
iridal nodules that represent aggregates of lymphocytes and plasma cells as may the proliferation of small vessels upon the
iris surface. Uveitis is typically accompanied by pain that is manifested most commonly by squinting and reflex tearing. Secondary
glaucoma, usually attributable to changes in the outflow pathway, is common sequelae to chronic uveitis.
Although in the strictest sense uveitis may result from any insult that damages the uveal tissues and most cases in the cat
are attributable to an infectious agent.
Feline infectious peritonitis virus induces uveitis in primarily young cats (younger than 2 years) with the predominant lesion
being a pyogranulomatous inflammatory response in the uveal tract. Although both the anterior and posterior uvea may be affected,
anterior segment signs are most often seen clinically. Consistent clinical signs may include aqueous flare, hypopyon, non-specific
iridal changes, keratic precipitates and the accumulation of fibrin in the anterior chamber. Posterior segment changes considered
highly suggestive of FIP are retinal perivasculitis and pyogranulomatous chorioretinitis. Because systemic infection typically
involves the kidneys, liver, spleen, lungs and central nervous system, systemic illness is a common component to the ocular
The feline immuno-deficiency virus is a lentivirus of the Retroviridae family that is increasingly recognized as a cause for
chronic immunodeficiency in cats. The ocular manifestations are typically in older cats (older than 5 years), and the most
conspicuous changes are seen in the anterior segment. This infection is one of chronic, relatively mild uveitis and abnormalities
include aqueous flare, keratic precipitates, incipient cortical cataracts, iridal hyperemia and the formation of iridal lymphocytic-plasmacytic
nodules. Because of the clinical subtlety of the ocular diseases, owners often do not notice a problem until glaucoma becomes
the presenting complaint.
The accumulation of inflammatory cells in the anterior vitreous humor in close approximation to the ciliary body is a common
concomitant finding. The specificity of this lesion for FIV infection is uncertain because cats with this finding test negative
for the virus. Cats with FIV-associated uveitis typically develop systemic signs of the infection months to years following
the recognition of the ocular disease. It is unknown whether the ocular findings reflect a direct effect of the virus or that
of secondary opportunistic pathogens.
The recent demonstration that IgM titers to the Toxoplasma gondii can be found in many uveitis-affected cats has led to heightened
interest in Toxoplasma gondii as a cause of feline uveitis. The organism is ubiquitous, and serologic evidence suggests that
many cats have been exposed to it. Ocular disease occurs when sporozoites released from sporulated oocysts or ingested cysts
hematogenously spread to the eye. Toxoplasmosis causes a granulomatous chorioretinitis and retinal vasculitis. Lymphocytic-plasmacytic
anterior uveitis also occurs with clinical signs including aqueous flare, iridal changes and keratic precipitates. Pulmonary
and central nervous system infection are the most common systemic manifestations of the disease. The clinical course of Toxoplasma
uveitis tends to be chronic and an association with systemic immunosuppression occurs.
Although systemic mycoses are relatively uncommon in cats, depending to some extent on geographic location, most have been
reported to produce ocular manifestations, including cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus neoformans), histoplasmosis (Histoplasma
capsulatum), blastomycosis (Blastomyces dermatitidis) and coccidioidomycosis (Coccidioides immitis).
While subtle features of these diseases may differ, their ocular manifestations have in common the hematogenous dissemination
from a primary pulmonary site of infection to the posterior uvea and the formation of a granulomatous chorio-retinitis. Anterior
segment involvement can also occur.