A bilateral prolapse of the nictitating membrane is usually a sign of general disease, while a unilateral prolapse rather indicates that specifically this eye is diseased.
From time to time, however, pet owners notice a prolapse of the nictitating membrane that is not one. The attending veterinarian then only diagnoses a false prolapse with physiological normal findings. This is what happens when your velvet paw has a non-pigmented nictitating margin.
Psychological problems as a cause?
Moving, being bullied by other cats, or a major change in daily routine stress your pet out. For example, a new cat in the neighborhood can affect your pelt-nose. This stress makes itself felt: Your velvet paw may eat less or nothing at all, it loses weight, refuses water. These are all alarm signals that you should take seriously. You can trigger a nictitating membrane prolapse.
Important for cat health: Try to reduce the stress factors for your animal or preferably eliminate them completely!
Some scents have a calming effect on cats. You can try, for example, valerian or Matabi chewing sticks with active ingredients of the Japanese ray pencil..
Symptoms: How to recognize a prolapsed nictitating membrane in my cat?
If your cat is healthy, you will only see a small fold of the nictitating membrane inside the corner of the eye near the nose of your velvet paw. In case of a so-called nictitating membrane prolapse the third eyelid becomes clearly visible. The nictitating membrane now pushes itself far over the eye. You cannot overlook the prolapse. Sometimes even the largest part of the eye is covered by the nictitating membrane. The prolapse can be unilateral or bilateral. You will notice that your cat is now more sensitive to light and produces a lot of tears.
Reaction: What should I do if the nictitating membrane becomes visible in my cat?
Sometimes cats push the nictitating membrane forward when they sleep. This can happen, but if it is permanent, it can indicate a disease. Your cat cannot see normally, vision is severely limited. This is dangerous for outdoor cats, because they can no longer perceive their surroundings properly. The prolapse can have a negative effect on the overall vision of your animal.
Light sensitivity and poor eyesight put your pet under stress and pose a danger. The general condition of your animal may therefore deteriorate quickly if the prolapse is left untreated.
Take your cat to the vet to find out the reason for the prolapse of the nictitating membrane!
Treatment: How to treat your cat for a nictitating membrane prolapse?
The veterinarian orders a treatment, which depends on the cause. The prolapse of the nictitating membrane goes back on its own when the trigger is removed.
The nictitating membrane prolapse itself is not treated, but the cause is addressed.
If, for example, conjunctivitis is the reason for the incident, your cat will be treated with eye drops or ointment against the inflammation.
If necessary, the veterinarian will take appropriate diagnostic steps, such as blood or fecal tests. With this he wants to identify possible systemic causes. According to the examination results the veterinarian takes measures. Your velvet paw is then treated for bacterial or viral infections, parasites or deficiencies.
If the veterinarian suspects that Horner's syndrome is the trigger for the prolapse of the nictitating membrane, X-rays or images in a computer tomograph or magnetic resonance scanner may be necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
If the reason for the prolapse of the nictitating membrane is an allergy or an intolerance, you change the food of your cat under professional guidance or change the attitude. In this way your pet will no longer come into contact with allergens.
You can do prophylaxis: Have your pet vaccinated against cat flu, for example, and regularly perform fecal tests and parasite treatments, if necessary!
FAQs – other frequently asked questions about cat nictitating membrane prolapse
What do I do if the prolapsed nictitating membrane does not go away by itself??
In any case you should visit your veterinarian and present the cat to him. He will examine it and find the reason for the prolapse of the nictitating membrane so that it can be treated.
How long does a cat nictitating membrane prolapse last??
As a rule, a prolapsed nictitating membrane lasts two to four weeks even if the trigger is treated.
Is a cat's nictitating membrane prolapse dangerous?
The prolapse of the cat's third eyelid is not life-threatening at first. However, the animal suffers from the incident because it no longer sees properly. Often there is a general disease behind the prolapsed nictitating membrane, which will permanently affect the health of the animal if you do not treat it. This is why it's important to have a veterinarian examine your cat.
What is the cost of treating a cat with a prolapsed nictitating membrane??
The question of cost cannot be answered in a blanket manner. The costs depend on the necessary examinations and treatment options. For example, if worms are the triggers for your cat's nictitating membrane prolapse, the cost will be comparatively low. If the veterinarian initiates an X-ray or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) for an accurate diagnosis, it becomes more costly.
The purpose and the costs of all examinations will of course be discussed with you by the veterinarian in advance.
Can I treat the nictitating membrane prolapse in my cat homoeopathically?
The practitioner can try to help, for example, through certain acupuncture points, if the prolapse of the third eyelid of your cat is caused by Horner's syndrome.
The association for veterinary naturopathy compiles on its website its members. You may find information about a homeopathic veterinarian in your area here.
Is my cat's nictitating membrane prolapse contagious?
The nictitating membrane prolapse in itself is not contagious. However, the disease behind it can be contagious – such as cat cold or worm infestation.
Nictitating membrane prolapse. In: Lutz H, Kohn B, Forterre F, eds. Diseases of the cat. 6., updated edition. Stuttgart: Thieme; 2019.
Horner's syndrome. In: Eul-Matern C, ed. Acupuncture for diseases of dogs and cats. 1. Circulation. Stuttgart: Sonntag publishing house; 2015.