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Our older cat, Futz, came home with a bloody eye. When I looked
at it more closely, I saw that there is actually blood inside the
eye, not on the outside like I first thought. He seems fine
Q: Our older cat, Futz, came home with a bloody eye. When I looked at it more closely, I saw that there is actually blood inside the eye, not on the outside like I first thought. He seems fine otherwise. He’s eating normally and he doesn’t seem to have any pain or discomfort from this. I know you can’t make a diagnosis based on what I see. But what could cause this to happen? I’m guessing that he was injured in a fight.


Blood in the eye (called hyphema) can be a symptom of many different conditions. Futz’s bloody eye could be the result of a fight wound or a bump or blow to the head. And if that’s the case, his eye could look better in just a few days. But even if this bloody eye is a result of trauma, there’s a chance that secondary glaucoma could develop. Glaucoma (high pressure in the globe of the eye) is painful and causes blindness. It’s treatable but early diagnosis and treatment is very important. And here’s the tricky part; glaucoma can develop even if his eye looks as though it’s healing. Symptoms aren’t always very obvious. This is just one reason that he should see a veterinarian right away. Here are a few more. 

A ruptured blood vessel in the eye can be a symptom of hypertension. That’s right. Some older kitties can have high blood pressure the same as humans. And one of the symptoms can be a spontaneous rupture of a small blood vessel in the eye.

There’s yet one other cause for a bloody eye that relates to the thyroid glands. Hyperthyroid disease is a condition where a small benign tumor on one of the thyroid glands secretes excessive thyroid hormone. It leads to hypertension and many other unhealthful conditions. I’ve seen quite a few kitties with hyperthyroid disease that were brought in for problems similar to this. In essence, Futz’s condition could be a signal, a wake-up call, that he needs medical attention and treatment to stay healthy and live a long life. He’s 14 years old. Many cats live a healthy and happy life far longer than that. And both hypertension and hyperthyroid disease are treatable. So I hope you can take him in to the vet right away for a complete physical exam.


Can cats get distemper from a dog? Our neighbor’s dog died from distemper last month, and now their cat is a little sick. Our cat plays with theirs all the time. One of my friends said that cats can die from distemper. Is that true?


We’re so sorry to hear about your neighbor’s dog. Canine distemper is easily prevented with routine vaccinations, and it’s a terrible disease for any pooch to endure. But canine distemper is contagious only to dogs. It’s caused by a virus that only affects dogs, not cats. So all the kitties are safe from this one.

Your friend is right, however, because there is another disease in kitty-cats that’s deceptively called “distemper” by some people. Its true name is panleukopenia, and it causes severe and often fatal anemia. Interestingly enough, the virus for feline “distemper” also is specific to cats; dogs cannot become ill with this one even if they are exposed to the virus that causes it.

And finally, just to add to the confusion, there’s another disease called “distemper” in horses (it’s more commonly known as “strangles”). Just like the others, equine “distemper” is species specific. That means it only infects one species, in this case, equines. So as you can see, the confusion results from some rather loose terminology here. The bottom line is that kitty is safe from the distemper that killed that poor dog. But I hope you can convince the neighbors to have that cat checked at a vet clinic. The tragedy of their dog’s death would only be doubled if their cat also dies.


Who has a faster heart rate, my guinea pig, Clyde, or my hamster, Fang? I’m guessing Fang does because he’s so mean. Is there an animal that has an even faster heart?


You guessed right, although I’m not sure your reasoning is correct. Guinea pigs have a heart that beats about 250 times per minute. But hamsters? Well, their heart rate is as fast as 450 beats per minute (more than seven beats per second!). Funny thing, I can’t seem to count those beats when I use my stethoscope and listen to a hamster’s heart. Can you count to 450 in one minute?

Oh, and who has the fastest heart rate? I’ll bet on the hummingbird who has a heart rate in the range of 1,400 beats per minute! That’s one fast-moving pump inside that little bird’s chest!

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