Rabbits and Eye Diseases: How You Can Help

With their large, mostly dark eyes and their calm gaze, rabbits win the hearts of animal lovers. However, their organs of vision are very susceptible to all kinds of diseases. If you notice that your bum’s eyes are losing their shine or are producing unusual secretions, the animal needs medical attention quickly.

How are Rabbit Eyes Constructed?

The eyes of the wild rabbits are perfectly adapted to their way of life: They are on the side of the head and are positioned slightly protruding so that the animals that are always ready to flee have an almost complete all-around view. The eye area is also less hairy so that the fur does not obscure the view. So it is not too easy for predators to sneak up on a rabbit unnoticed. Spatial Vision, with which rabbits can perceive the environment in three dimensions, is limited to around 20 degrees. That means: the Mummler only has a keen eye for things that take place head-on in front of him.

Everything that is exactly in front of his nose is in the blind spot for the far-sighted rabbit; instead, the sense of smell and the whiskers on the snout play an important role in perception. Some domestic rabbits have a smaller field of vision, for example, because they have lush fur or lop ears. The rabbits’ color perception is limited because they lack receptors for red light: they only see two basic colors. Because their pupils are always dilated, rabbits are blinded in bright light. They have an additional eyelid, the transparent nictitating membrane. In contrast to other animals, this lid, which protects against drafts and dust, for example, does not cover the whole eye.

How Can I Recognize Eye Diseases in Rabbits?

Eye diseases are quite common in rabbits and must be treated promptly or there is a risk of them becoming chronic. Diseases of the organs of vision are relatively easy to recognize since they usually develop obvious discharges, swellings, and redness as accompanying symptoms. If the cornea is injured, the rabbits also become sensitive to light, blink conspicuously or keep their eyes closed. Some rabbits have natural pigment spots on their eyes. Such individual characteristics are not a disease, but they can be misleading in the diagnosis.

What Are Rabbit Eye Diseases?

In addition to mechanical injuries to the eye from foreign bodies or arguments, there are a number of common eye diseases in rabbits.

  • Dacryocystitis: When the tear and nasal passages are blocked, it is usually due to dental problems or bacterial infection. A liquid or – with bacterial causes – milky discharge occurs, which leads to a wet area around the eyes and crusts up to partial hair loss. The vet can usually help with dental treatment or rinsing the tear ducts and antibiotics.
  • Conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis can occur due to various factors. They manifest themselves in redness and swelling of the mucous membrane of the eyes. There may also be a discharge.
  • Allergies or injuries can also cause conjunctivitis; in the bacterial variant, it can be transmitted from animal to animal. This eye inflammation in rabbits is treated with topically applied ointments or drops.
  • Keratitis: This is an injury to the cornea that can be very painful. The animal winks frequently, milky spots or reddish vessels may be visible in the eye. In addition to mechanical triggers, diseases such as myxomatosis or rabbit cold can be accompanied by keratitis. Drops or ointments are given for treatment.
  • Cataracts and glaucoma: Opacified lens or glaucoma can have various causes: previous stresses such as diabetes or choroidal inflammation favor the diseases. Depending on the individual case, treatment with medication can help, for example, to normalize intraocular pressure. Cataracts are a relatively common phenomenon of old age.
  • Exophthalmus: The eye protrudes strongly. Tumors, dental problems, and abscesses can be triggers. As a rule, surgery is performed here, and the affected eye may have to be removed.
  • By the way: rabbits who are blind on one side get along surprisingly well in familiar surroundings in everyday life.
  • Fat eyes are a hereditary disease in which the eyelid droops and a conjunctival sac can be seen under the eye; the disease only manifests itself in the adult animal.
  • Nictitating membrane prolapse: Injuries, trauma, infections, and organic diseases can cause the nictitating membrane to slide over the eye permanently.

What Can I Do If the Rabbit’s Eyes Water?

If you suspect an eye disease or injury to your rabbit, here’s what to do:

What to do if you have an eye disease?

  • Low-irritation environment: Make sure that the sick rabbit comes to a sheltered place where it is not exposed to drafts, wind, direct sunlight, bright light or impaired air quality (cigarette smoke, fumes).
  • Initial assessment: attempt to find out whether there is mechanical irritation from a foreign body, for example from a straw that has got under the eyelid. Warning: Do not try to remove such foreign objects yourself. There is an acute risk of injury!
  • Visit the vet: The vet can professionally remove annoying objects and detect injuries to the cornea if no foreign body can be found. If it is not a wound but an illness, he initiates appropriate therapies.
  • Medication: As a rule, drops or ointments are used on the eyes. Eye drops are easier to apply, ointments work for a longer period of time. To give the rabbit drops or ointment, it is best to hold it fixed on the floor: This is less stressful for the animal than if you lift it up.
  • Douches: Please never wash your eyes with chamomile tea, even if the home remedy is still recommended in many places. Use a pharmacy tear substitute or saline solution instead. Use it to moisten cotton pads or compresses and wipe over the animal’s eyelashes from the outside in. Important: You have to use a fresh pad every time you wipe.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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