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Cat Randomly Goes Blind, But Not Blood Pressure Related

Discussion in 'Cat Health' started by xthoroughbred, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. xthoroughbred

    xthoroughbred Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

    Sep 6, 2011
    I have a 12-year-old cat who randomly goes blind. I've only had him for a little over a year, and this started about 8 months ago. He was in rough shape when I adopted him but he's gained weight and is doing wonderfully now, except for this.

    It happens once every 2 months or so, and usually at night. He can't see ANYTHING--not even shadows. It doesn't matter whether I turn the lights on or off. I usually turn them off because I feel like it has to hurt his eyes when they're super dilated, but he doesn't wince or back away from the light when it's on. He runs head-first into things, including me, and paces around, just kind of turning his head in all directions and trying to figure things out.

    The first time, I rushed him to the ER and waited two hours. He was back to normal by the time we got to see a vet. His blood pressure was normal then.

    I then followed up with a second vet and took him to an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist said his blood pressure was slightly elevated and they started him on Amlodipine, but she determined that the blindness is NOT caused by his blood pressure. She said his eyes were absolutely perfect and his retinas looked great. If this was a blood pressure issue, she said there would have been some evidence of damage to his retinas.

    The second time it happened, I took him back to the ophthalmologist and she again saw no damage to his eyes. She recommended a $4,000 MRI for him. I'm happy to spend that money if something positive comes of it, but I don't quite see the benefit yet. If the MRI shows something, it will probably be a diagnosis that's untreatable. I've also been told that this doesn't sound like a brain tumor since it's not progressively getting worse and he has zero other symptoms. It's just like someone turns the lights off for a few hours and then back on.

    The third time it happened, I monitored him overnight and he was better by morning.

    A few days ago, he went blind mid-afternoon and it lasted through the next morning. This is the longest it's ever gone on, and it's never happened in daylight. I took him to a different vet that I really trust, and he was also stumped. Unfortunately, his eyesight returned by the time we arrived so he didn't get to see it in action. But he confirmed his eyes were clear, his retinas looked great, and his eye pressure was perfect. His blood pressure was also spot on. I showed him the attached picture of what he looks like when this happens, and he said it's rare for a cat's eyes to be THAT dilated. He did bloodwork for his thyroid, kidneys, blood sugar and liver, and all of that was normal. He's medicated for hyperthyroid.

    The next plan is to rush him to my vet when it's happening so that he can see it in action. No one has been able to do that yet. But that's going to be hard since the only vet open at night when this happens is the ER, and they don't seem to know what to do with this.

    Does anyone have any ideas? Here's the photo from the last time it happened.

    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018

  2. Jem

    Jem TCS Member Top Cat

    Aug 6, 2018
    I wonder if it's a problem with the optic nerve, or something else that is affecting the optic nerve (pinched, compressed) that controls the dilation of the pupil, which in turn could affect the vision response.
    I was thinking possibly seizure activity, but I doubt a seizure would last as long as your saying his "episodes" are lasting, unless, the seizure only lasts a few seconds, but it's in the part or the brain that controls eye sight, and it takes a bit for it to recover.
    The other thing I thought was a small aneurysm or slow leak to a blood vessel that feeds the eyes, or blood vessel in the part of the brain that controls the eye sight.
    Your vet may have thought of these but I'm just throwing things out there. An MRI would be able to see most of the suggestions I wrote.
    Good luck and please keep us updated.

  3. Katiekat412

    Katiekat412 TCS Member Young Cat

    Aug 28, 2017
    Wow...I've never seen pupils that dilated before. These are the most common reasons for dilated pupils (i'm sure you probably went through most):
    • Brain trauma
    • Thiamine deficiency
    • Retinal detachment
    • Glaucoma
    • Tumours (brain or insulinomas)
    • Feline dysautonomia
    • Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium)
    • Anticholinergic drugs and plants
    • Key-Gaskell syndrome
    As for blindness, the one time I had a cat partially blind ( could see shadows) it was from period of starvation before I got her, leading to retinal detachment (partial). Bleeding is another cause. He's the perfect age for hyperthyroidism which can do this. I would test him anyway, but often times they lose weight, look more unkempt, or have some behavioral changes.

    Has he been tested for FIV and FELV? They can have associated problems. I know these are really basic suggestions, but you've already been to an opthamoligist. I assume they also looked for basics like chronic uveitis. If it's not the eye itself, it's likely neurological, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease in that order.
    lilmopeep purraised this.

  4. LTS3

    LTS3 TCS Member Staff Member Forum Helper

    Aug 29, 2014
    Try recording the episodes and showing it to the vet. That might help the vet figure out what's going on.

  5. Antonio65

    Antonio65 TCS Member Top Cat

    Feb 27, 2017
    Orbassano - Italy
    Hi @xthoroughbred,
    your case is similar to the one I had with my cat Lola.

    She suddenly got blind one evening and she was still blind the next morning and I rushed her to the ophtalmologist who said that her retinas were both detached and put her on Amlodipine.
    My cat took one pill, and half an hour later she was fine. So, it wasn't the Amlodipine to perform the miracle.
    In the following year she was randomly blind like your cat, and though my cat was seen by more than one opthalmologist, none of them was able to spot the cause of this problem.
    The retinas got attached again, but she was blind or not blind.

    The last doctor who saw her was the best known ophatlomologist around, sort of a God of Doctors, and he said my cat was totally and permanently blind, despite the fact that on that very moment she was seeing clearly and she proved that she was seeing by walking in the room she had never in before without bumping into anything.

    My cat died a year later the first episode of blindness. We never had an answer.

    She had an adrenal gland disease and a carcinoma. Some vet speculated that one of them two was the culprit of her blindness.

    So I would advice you to run further and more thorough blood works and see if something is out of ordinary.

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