Rabbit eye health - how to look after your bunny’s eyes
It’s simply not enough to give your rabbits carrots to help them see in the dark – their eyes need plenty of care and attention.
Rabbits are known for their adorably large eyes, but those same eyes are also prone to eye problems.
General care for your rabbit’s eyes
Your rabbit’s sense of sight is different to any other pets. For instance, rabbits are partially colour-blind, and in very bright environments their eye sight diminishes significantly.
The position of a rabbit’s eyes on either side of their head provides them with the ability to see all around. Combined with their farsighted vision, rabbits can see predators approaching in the wild. However, rabbits have blind spots directly in front of them, directly behind them, and under their chin.
You should check your rabbit regularly for any changes in behaviour or appearance, particularly in the eyes which should appear clean and bright, with equal sized pupils.
A few signs that something may be wrong include:
- Squinting or closing of the eye
- Milky discharge
- Visible foreign body on the surface of the eye
- Matted hair around the eye
A loss of appetite may also indicate there’s a problem with your bunny’s teeth which will lead to secondary eye issues, so be sure to keep an eye on your bunny’s eating habits.
Common rabbit eye conditions
Rabbit eye health is often associated with dental disease or tooth root problems, so it is vital that you consult your vet if your rabbit has any symptoms. Here are some of the issues your rabbit can be faced with…
Foreign bodies are often the cause of rabbit eye problems, especially hay which forms their bedding. Using either cotton pads or cotton Q-tips and saline rinse, you can easily remove the unwanted object from the eye if you take care.
If you are uncomfortable doing it yourself, then consult with your vet who will be able to help.
Abscesses around the head can affect the eye and these can be extremely painful for rabbits. The cause is usually linked to dental disease. It is vital you seek veterinary help if any of the following symptoms occur;
- Bump under your rabbit’s eye – this could be from an infected tooth root
- Bulging of the eye – this could mean there is an abscess behind the eye
- These are notoriously hard to treat. The abscess will need to be drained and cleaned by a vet.
- Eye drops and oral antibiotics are likely to be prescribed to try and contain the infection and prevent it from spreading.
If you do notice any of the above symptoms, contact your vet who will be able to advise the appropriate treatment.
The cornea is the transparent part of the eyeball, and an ulcer occurs when this is scratched or damaged. Vets will use a special eye stain to detect the ulcer and assess the severity.
- Squinting or closing of the eye
- Visible scratch on the surface of the eye
- Antibiotic eye drops or ointment
- Anti-inflammatory medication
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the outer layer of the eye, otherwise known as the conjunctiva. It can be a very painful condition if left untreated. Conjunctivitis can be caused by myxomatosis as well as manifesting as a symptom of dental problems, so be sure to check their oral health regularly too.
- Inflammation of the pink part surrounding your rabbit’s eye
- Affected eye partially closed
- Loss of appetite
- Antibiotic ointment or eye drops
Preventing Rabbit Eye Problems
By far the most important thing to do to maintain your rabbit’s ocular health is to prevent dental disease by feeding a diet that has adequate roughage and long fibre; i.e. grass and hay. You can find out more about feeding your rabbit the correct diet here. Choose bedding which is softer, and keep the enclosure clean and dust-free to limit the likelihood of foreign bodies entering the eye.
Finally, ensure that your rabbit’s vaccinations are up to date. The viral disease Myxomatosis can be prematurely mistaken for an eye condition at first, as one of the symptoms is runny eyes. However, the disease is deadly, so it is vital your rabbit is protected against it.
If you are worried about your bunny’s eye health, always seek veterinary attention, where you will be provided with expert advice tailored to your specific situation.