Many people associate long, floppy ears with rabbits. And yes, those droopy appendages are perhaps the most distinctive features buns have. But we can say some interesting things about their large, soulful eyes as well. And because they are the windows to your bun’s health, familiarity with rabbit eye problems will let you know if you need to get help for your pet.
Fascinating Facts about Your Rabbit’s Eyes
Positioned at the side of the head, your bun’s eyes let him see all around him. That’s a pretty useful ability in the wild, which helps rabbits detect approaching predators. However, despite the almost 360-degree vision, buns can’t see what’s directly in front of them.
Rabbits are also partially color-blind. That is, they can perceive colors but not as vividly as humans. Mainly their vision only detects certain hues and not the whole spectrum of colors.
Moreover, because they are most active during dust or dawn, they’ve developed the ability to see in low light conditions. On the downside, their eyesight significantly decreases in bright environments. For example, they get blinded by the glare of approaching car headlights.
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Common Rabbit Eye Problems
Like with other animals, rabbits can suffer from eye ailments. Many of these conditions are not fatal but getting medical attention for your pet is still a wise recourse.
Here are some rabbit eye problems that your pet may encounter.
Your bun’s eyes can become inflamed and watery. In addition, a sticky discharge usually gathers around the eyes and the surrounding fur. Surprisingly, this condition typically occurs as a result of dental problems such as overgrown teeth.
That’s because rabbit tear ducts run just below the eyes. As such, overgrown teeth can press on the tear ducts, blocking the natural drainage of excess water in the eyes and causing an infection.
To address the blockage, your vet will usually flush the duct with saline solution to remove the debris or discharge that’s blocking the duct and reduce the inflammation.
Foreign Bodies in the Eye
Because of their size, your bun’s eyes are susceptible to injuries. Foreign bodies, such as hay, bits of food, or pieces of bedding can land on the eye surface, causing pain or irritation. To remove the unwanted object, using cotton pads and saline rinse usually does the trick. But if the soreness persists after you’ve taken out the foreign material, consult your vet.
Abscesses are bumps on your rabbit’s skin. These are typically full of pus and can form anywhere on the body, usually around areas that sustained injuries and got infected.
Bumps around the eyes commonly occur with rabbits who suffer from dental problems such as an infected tooth root. Also, teeth that have grown too long can press into the skull and get infected. The bulge may get bigger as the infection worsens.
Scratches or bites around the eyes can also become infected and result in abscesses.
To treat the problem, the vet needs to drain and clean the abscess. Then, your bun’s doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics along with some eye drops to prevent the infection from spreading.
Corneal ulcers occur when the cornea or the eye’s outermost layer suffers some form of trauma. For example, injuries to the eyeball usually happen when rabbits fight or when some foreign object gets stuck in the eye. The damage such events cause sometimes lead to bacterial infections.
You may see your bun holding his eye shut or scratching it with his paw. That’s because the condition is intensely painful and irritating to rabbits.
If the vet determines that your bun is suffering from a corneal ulcer, treatment will typically include topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the pain.
Conjunctivitis, also commonly referred to as “pink eye,” is a bacterial infection of the outer part of the eye called the conjunctiva. It’s a painful condition, so like with eye ulcers, your fur baby may scratch the eye to try and get rid of the discomfort.
Conjunctivitis occurs more commonly in rabbits who live in unsanitary conditions as they can pick up the bacteria in dirty cages or litter boxes. (Check out these tips to quickly clean your rabbits cage!) Myxomatosis, a serious and devastating viral disease, can cause the condition, or it may be a symptom of some dental problems.
Prescription ointments and eyewashes usually work in treating the condition. Just make sure you ask for your vet’s advice on the proper medication to use.
Although conjunctivitis is a relatively mild condition, it can worsen and lead to eye ulcers if left untreated.
The lens of the eyes become cloudy or opaque in rabbits with cataracts. Factors such as genetics, age, and diet play a role in developing cataracts in your bun. Trauma to the eye or infection from the Encephalitozoon Cuniculi (E. Cuniculi) virus can also be behind this eye problem.
If not treated, cataracts can lead to blindness or glaucoma.
Surgery to correct the cataract is usually the recommended option. Still, if it’s not feasible because of your rabbit’s age or health condition, you’ll be glad to know that buns can still lead a happy life even if they go blind. With the proper care, most rabbits manage to adjust to their sight loss and learn to rely on their other senses to get around.
Glaucoma is a condition where there’s high pressure in the eye resulting from too much fluid. Rabbits with glaucoma either overproduce the fluid or are unable to drain it. As a result, the pressure increases. Symptoms of glaucoma include swelling of the eye, discharge, squinting, and cloudiness of the lens.
Aside from causing pain to your bun, glaucoma will eventually rupture the eyeball and lead to blindness if not managed correctly.
Your vet will usually turn to medication that reduces eye pressure, relieves pain, and improves fluid drainage to address the condition. Unfortunately, your bun will need to use the medicine for life.
Eye problems are not only painful, but they can also cause irreparable damage to your bun’s sight if left unaddressed. So if you see symptoms of eye problems in your rabbit, seek prompt medical attention for your pet to prevent the condition from getting worse.
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