SPCA of Northern Virginia Kittens
Kittens born April 8, 2010

Eyelid Agenesis

Greg and I have bee fostering for a long time.  Over the years, with two SPCA groups, we have probably fostered over two hundred cats and kittens.  We have a cat with three legs, many with heart murmurs, one with kidney problems and many other problems.  This is the first time we have ever had to deal with a litter with birth defects.

We first noticed that Moo Moo was having crusty eyes around two weeks of age.  The kittens had not opened their eyes yet but they were having discharge, primarily Moo Moo.  We took him to our vet and we got an ointment and instructions on how to clean his eyes.

Once the kittens opened their eyes, they were so tiny that we did not notice a difference.  We kept up with the ointment and cleaning.  Around their third week, I was applying ointment to Moo Moo's eyes and I noticed that his eye looked strange.  I looked closer and could not believe what I saw.  Since he did not have an upper eye lid (the rim or where the eyelashes would attach), it looked like his face just melted into his eyeball and the fur was laying on his eyeball.  I immediately called the vet.  I think it is because Moo Moo's fur around his eyes is white and the ointment slicks the fur back that it was very apparent on him.

When we got to Belle Haven Animal Medical Center, Dr. Katz and Dr. McDonald examined the litter and informed me that all four kittens had the birth defect.  Dr. Katz called a local ophthalmologist who confirmed that it wasn't as uncommon as I first though.  She recommended an examination.  She also suggested that it was caused by an amino acid deficiency when they were in the womb.  Since Abby had a very hard life before she came to us, this sounded plausible.

Unfortunately, I could not get an appointment with this ophthalmologist for almost a month.  Moo Moo's eye was cloudy and the fur was constantly rubbing directly on his eye.  Thus, I called around and we were able to get an appointment in Vienna, VA.  That Ophthalmologist said that it was not caused by nutrition but was a genetic birth defect.  Regardless of the cause, the litter all had ulcers on their cornea (at only 4 weeks of age) and diagnosed with eyelid agenesis. 

One website defines this as:
A lack of portions of the eyelid occurs in cats and is known as eyelid agenesis or eyelid coloboma. This condition is seen in the lateral portion of the upper eyelid. This condition will lead to scarring and blood vessels occurring in the cornea because tears are not spread normally and because hairs on the 'eyebrow' will rub the cornea. Surgery is necessary to correct this condition.  Another site states: Eyelid agenesis is a congenital defect of that occurs most frequently in cats.  The upper temporal eyelid (lateral 1/3 to 2/3) fails to develop resulting in a full- or partial-thickness defect...If the agenesis is mild, cryoepilation or entropion surgery can be performed to limit trichiasis.  If severe, surgical correction requires use of grafting procedures, using the lower eyelid and the conjunctiva of the nictitating membrane as the donor site, to construct a functional eyelid.

Below are photos from that eye exam that show their condition.  The green discharge is from the eye stain to look for ulcers.


The kittens were prescribed an antibiotic eye ointment for the ulcers (from where the fur rubbed on their cornea) and were told that they had to be at least four months old before any procedure could be perform cryosurgery where they freeze the hair follicle to prevent hair growth.  Even if they did laser hair removal, it only works on pigmented hair/fur so it would not help Moo Moo.  The estimate for the surgery to reconstruct the eyelid was about $8,000 and the estimate for the cryosurgery (to remove the hairs) was almost $5,400.

The SPCA of Northern Virginia had a litter of kittens born with this birth defect a few years ago. The kitten with the worst problem needed multiple surgeries and the cost was over $10,000 for the litter of three kittens.  The litter's foster parent had to do extensive fundraising to pay for their health care.  They are overwhelmed with the abundance of cats and kittens that need assistance and foster homes that they do not have resources to help these kittens.  Thus, Greg and I are taking responsibility to get the most assistance that we can for them.

The ophthalmologist recommended keeping their eyes lubricated with the ointment and our only option was to wait until they grew larger.  We went home and after about a week, it seemed that the rubbing on Moo Moo's eye was making it much worse.  To see our next step, click on our Virginia Tech page.


Please remember that the SPCA of Northern Virginia appreciates any donation you are able to make.  Your dontation will help pay for these expensive surgeries and veterinary care.
Please donate to the Northern Virginia SPCA by clicking on this link. www.spcanova.org Click on the 'donate now' button on the left side of their homepage, under 'Contact Us'.  Make sure you designate the "Stone kittens" or "eyelid surgery" when you complete the donation form or the money will go into the general fund and not support this litter.  All donations are tax deductible.
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