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Rabbit Eye Problems

Common Eye Issues in Rabbits

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Sadie - Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Picture

Sadie - Netherland Dwarf

© Dottie Woods

Rabbits are seen at the veterinary clinic for an assortment of eye problems. It is important to be able to recognize a possible problem before it is too late to help the eye, therefore this list of rabbit eye problems will come in handy if your bunny is squinting or you suspect he has an eye issue.

Foreign Bodies

This is what your exotics vet will call something in your rabbit's eye that shouldn't be there, such as a piece of bedding, hay or other food, or something else that doesn't belong around an eye.

By using cotton tipped applicators, saline rinse, and sometimes even some eye lubrication, your vet should be able to remove the irritant from the affected eye. But sometimes the foreign body is so difficult to remove or your rabbit won't open his eye up enough to remove what doesn't belong that some light sedation, or anesthesia, is administered. This will relax your bunny and allow your vet to work more quickly without causing further harm to the eye.

Abcessation

The eye itself can be punctured, become infected and abscess but more commonly the area directly under the eye swells up and abscesses due to a wound. You may notice a bump under your rabbit's eye just suddenly appear one day. This could be from a scratch or bite that got infected.

Regardless of the reason for the abscessation, your rabbit will need the abscess to be lanced by your vet and cleaned out. This will allow it to drain and get the infection cleaned out. The vet may use a scalpel blade or a needle to lance it and then gently express the pus out of the abscess. Then, depending on how bad the area around the eye is, your vet may send you home with eye drops and systemic antibiotics (usually a liquid you give orally).

Ulcers

When something gets stuck in your rabbit's eye, such as bedding, or other trauma occurs to the eyeball itself, damage to the cornea can occur and an ulcer can result. An ulcer is basically a hole in the cornea and it can be a small spot or cover the entire eye.

Ulcers, as you can imagine, are very painful. Your rabbit may be holding his eye shut or scratch it with his paw. To diagnose an ulcer your exotics vet will use a special eye stain that will stick to the ulcer on the eye if there is one. Then they will use a black light to cause the stain to light up on the ulcer. If an ulcer is found you will be sent home with special eye drops and your rabbit will need to be rechecked in a few days or week to make sure the ulcer is going away.

Conjunctivitis

Also known as "pink eye," conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the pink part that surrounds your rabbit's eye. This pink to red colored fleshy part is called the conjunctiva. Rabbit eyes usually get bacterial conjunctivitis and require an antibiotic eye drop or ointment. They can get conjunctivitis from dirty water or environment that would harbor bacteria, such as a dirty bedding or litter box.

Proptosis

This is probably the worst type of eye problem, and the thankfully the least commonly seen one in rabbits. Proptosis is when the eyeball pops out of your rabbit's head. Really the only way this would ever happen is if your bunny gets squeezed so hard that his eye comes out. It usually has to be removed, as it will be hanging from the optic nerve, but sometimes it can be surgically replaced.

Iris Prolapse

Also referred to as a protruding iris, an iris prolapse is when a part of the iris is protruding through a hole in the cornea. It is painful and may regress with simple eye drops but sometimes surgery is needed to replace the protruding portion of the iris and suture the hole closed.

Blindness

Sometimes rabbits are born blind due to congenital issues and other times trauma or other situations cause blindness. Regardless of the reason for being blind, bunnies should do just fine without their sight. He will be able to smell where his food is in his cage but may have trouble navigating outside of his regular enclosure.

You can help prevent eye problems in your rabbit by keeping his enclosure clean, choose soft bedding such as a recycled paper material, and don't squeeze your rabbit but do get him checked out yearly by an exotics vet. Only you can keep your rabbit happy and healthy. And by knowing what could go wrong with him is one way to help keep him healthy.

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