Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Winky's Story: Eyelid Agenesis

Winky spent the first few weeks of his life in a foster home for another shelter. When he was about four weeks old, his foster mom brought him back into the shelter, concerned that he might have an eye infection, since he was constantly rubbing his eyes and they seemed to be irritated all the time. When the veterinarian at the shelter really took a look at him, he realized that Winky didn't have an infection, he instead had a defect called "eyelid agenesis". This is a fairly common birth defect in cats where the edge of the eyelid (which is usually hairless) doesn’t develop correctly and instead the cat constantly has hair rubbing against their cornea. Think of how painful it is to have a stray eyelash rubbing against your cornea; poor Winky felt like this all the time!!! Worse, if untreated, the constant rubbing can cause corneal ulcers and lead to blindness. Until recently, surgical treatment for this condition was difficult to do and had a lot of complications, so most shelters adopted these kittens without fixing the condition and with the recommendation that owners give the cat daily eye-drops and pay attention for ulcers or infections. Many of these cats lose their eyes over time or develop chronic ulcers that leave them mostly blind.

The veterinarian in the shelter partnered up with us to see if there was anything that could be done for Winky; even though he was painful all the time, he was a sweet cuddly kitten that deserved to be saved! We got a consult with a veterinary opthalmologist, who mentioned to us that a new surgical technique had just been described where, after two surgeries, the eye could be completely corrected, so that the kittens could be adopted out without having to worry about complications later in life. Because the technique was new to him, he offered to do the surgeries at a reduced rate, so that he could get the experience with a new technique and we could then afford to help poor Winky. The surgeries were performed and went amazingly well. After healing from his second surgery, Winky went to his new home. Although his eye openings are now a little smaller than other cats, but Winky doesn't care; he's just glad to have eyes that work and will never hurt him again.

After having such a positive experience with Winky, our veterinarian was excited to help more cats with this abnormality. As luck would have it, in August we got a litter of three eyelid agenesis kittens to help; Garfield, Jezebel, and Blondie are in the process of getting their eyelids re-made, and will be available for adoption soon!