Rabbit Care: Red Eye Explained

Red eye is a condition in rabbits that often occurs due to an underlying health problem. Red eye can affect one or both eyes and is characterised by localised swelling and red patches at the front of the eye. The condition can be caused by a bacterial infection or viral conjunctivitis. If your rabbit has a respiratory tract infection that spreads into their sinus cavities, bacteria can enter their eyes from their infected sinuses. Other conditions that can lead to red eye include dental disease and glaucoma.

Symptoms Of Red Eye In Rabbits

Red eye is quite easy to spot, but there are other symptoms to be aware of aside from the localised redness and swelling. Rabbits with red eye may have discharge seeping from their eye, and this may be clear or cloudy. Additionally, they may have localised hair loss and impaired vision, which can affect their coordination and cause clumsiness. It's not unusual for rabbits with red eye to experience lethargy and irritability, so your rabbit may withdraw and resist being held.

Diagnosis And Treatment

To diagnose red eye, your vet will examine your rabbit's eyes with an ophthalmoscope, which allows them to see magnified images of the eye. They will also swab your rabbit's eyes and have the swabs analysed for strains of bacteria and fungal spores. A blood sample may be required to check whether your rabbit's inflammatory markers are raised, which is indicative of an infection. Your rabbit's mouth will also be examined to check whether a dental issue, such as overgrown teeth, may be impacting on their eye health.

Treatment for red eye focuses on treating the underlying cause. Treatment may include corticosteroids or anti-inflammatories to speed up the healing process. Your rabbit will require antibiotics if they have a bacterial infection, and if your rabbit has glaucoma, they will be prescribed medication to reduce eye pressure. Dental problems that are impacting on your rabbit's eye health may require surgery to correct. Generally, the problems that cause red eye respond well to treatment, but there is a risk of permanent damage to your rabbit's eyes if treatment is not sought promptly, so being aware of the signs of red eye and potential causes can allow you to respond quickly. While recovering, it's best to provide your rabbit with a quiet, calm environment, and you should check on them regularly to ensure they are healing well and there are no signs of their eye health worsening.

If your rabbit has any symptoms associated with red eye, have them examined as soon as possible. Talk to a vet to learn more.