Why Do Rabbits Have Red Eyes?

Why Do Rabbits Have Red Eyes
Why Do Rabbits Have Red Eyes

Rabbits have red eyes for several reasons-some good, some not so good. As a rabbit owner, you must know why your rabbit’s eyes are red. In fact, I get asked by people all the time about red eyed rabbits. So, why do rabbits have red eyes?


Which Rabbit Breeds Have Red Eyes?

Certain breeds of rabbits are naturally red eyed. These breeds often have white fur, but not always. Here’s a list of the rabbits breeds that always have red eyes:

  • Himalyan-Himalayan always have red eyes. If you think your rabbit is a Himalyan, but she doesn’t have red eyes, then she isn’t a Himalyan, but another breed of a rabbit.
  • Angora Giant-Ruby red eyes with white fur, called an Albino. Giant size.
  • Florida white-Compact size, all white fur, pink eyes
  • Lion head-Compact size, red eyes, white fur or tortoiseshell. Long wool around neck
  • Californian-Fur is white with black at the points-nose, ears, feet and tail. Eyes are red. Himalyan type markings.

The American Rabbit Breeders Associate says there are 48 different breeds of rabbits. They have varied eye colors: Blues, browns, blue-grey, pink, marbled, ruby red and flash red. The pink eyes are because of a rare mutation where a rabbit inherits two recessive genes which causes the brown eyes to have a pink look to them. We find ruby or red eyes in albino rabbits who have no pigment Albino rabbits lack melanin, which leaves them with no color in their fur and eyes. The red color in albino rabbits is the blood vessels in the eye.

Flash red is when a rabbit lacks tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue visible in the eyes of some animals. This tissue reflects light.

A rabbit’s eye color is often similar to their fur color because they come from the same pigments-dark brown or light browns. What changes the shades of fur color is the size of melanin particles. Eyes with larger melanin particles will appear darker brown, eyes with smaller particles of melanin look blue. As rabbits get older, their eye color gets darker. This is because the size of the melanin particles increases. Because genetics plays a role in pigmentation, this tendency is more exaggerated in some rabbit breeds, but not others.

What Is Red Eye In Rabbits?

Red eye is a condition that causes swelling and irritation in a rabbit’s eyes or eyelids. It’s caused by different illnesses.

Here are symptoms and signs that can lead to red eye in your rabbit.

Damaged vision

Swollen eyelids

Eye discharge

Extra tissue amount eyes

Nasal discharge

Crusty around the eyes, nose or cheeks



Facial masses

If your rabbit has any of these symptoms , don’t delay, seek help from your vet right away. Left undiagnosed,  red eye can become serious quickly.

Causes of red eye in rabbits:

  • Bacterial infections in the eyes
  • Conjunctivitis from allergies, bacteria or virus
  • Fungal infection in the eyes, often because of an injury to the eye
  • Glaucoma which can cause blindness
  • Dental issues that sometimes causes inflammation to a rabbit’s tear duct

Your vet will do several tests to determine the main cause of your rabbit’s red eye. She will also prescribe the best treatment for your to follow to help heal your rabbit’s eyes. Never try to treat your rabbit by yourself. This could lead to more serious symptoms.

What Other Eye Illnesses Are Common To Rabbits?

Rabbits are prone to all kinds of eye problems besides red eye. Here’s a list of some common eye problems that rabbits can get.

  • Dacryocystitis- This is an Infection of the tear duct. Often, this is because your rabbit has a dental problem in the roots. A rabbit’s teeth roots and her tear ducts are close to each other. Infection or inflammation of the root of a tooth can upset the drainage of the tear duct. Your vet will flush out the tear duct to remove any infection. Then she will treat the tooth issue to prevent the dacryocystitis from returning.
  • Conjunctivitis- PInk eye, as it’s called, is a common eye infection for rabbits It’s very contagious, so isolate your rabbit until after treatment to be sure she doesn’t pass it on to other rabbits.
  • Ulcers in the eye- Rabbits can get their cornea damage from fighting with other rabbits or getting poked in the eye by hay or grass. Your vet will prescribe eye drops and antibiotics with maybe pain relievers.
  • Keratitis- This is an inflamed cornea which gets irritated and painful. The eye looks cloudy. Your vet will prescribe a topical cream plus a pain reliever.
  • Epiphora-This is an excessive watering of a rabbit’s eyes because of poor eyelid function, a blockage of her nasal passages or her tear ducts, or an eye infection. Sometimes this is all because of dental disease or a tooth abscess.
  • Myxomatosis-This disease is deadly for rabbits. Your rabbit may have symptoms like conjunctivitis, loss of appetite or lethargy. The mucous membranes of the rabbit’s eyes, nose, genital and anal areas can become swollen and inflamed.

●     Abscess-Rabbit sometimes get abscesses around the eye region. These are painful and can swell the eyeball if they get too big.

  • Cataract-Rabbits develop cataracts because of poor diet, trauma to the eye region, genetics, or infection. Often, the infection is from a parasite called E. cuniculi
  • Uveitis-This is an eye inflammation that affects the middle layer tissue of the eye wall. It comes on suddenly. It causes redness, pain and blurred vision.
  • Glaucoma-New Zealand White rabbits inherited this trait towards getting glaucoma. They can get it as young as 3 to 6 months of age.
  • Buphthalmos-A rabbit’s eyes bulges out, it’s from blood accumulating behind the eye. It’s caused by stress, abscesses or glaucoma.

How Do I Keep  My Rabbit’s Eyes Healthy?

If your rabbit has bright eyes, normal functioning eyelids and watery looking discharge coming from her eyes, nose or mouth-it’s a good sign she is healthy. It’s also likely that her teeth are in good shape and kept trimmed with no visible abscesses.

Here are some other ways to keep your rabbit’s eyes healthy:

Good diet-The best way to keep your rabbit’s eyes healthy is to give her a healthy diet rich in grass hays, fresh vegetables, and lots of water. Your rabbits should eat her weight in hay every day to maintain a healthy digestive system as well keep her teeth trimmed down since rabbit’s teeth grow throughout their entire lives.

Dental health-Dental disease in rabbits often leads to eye illnesses so keep your rabbit’s teeth well trimmed and healthy with a high fiber diet. Too long of teeth in a rabbit can cause inflammation of the tear ducts.

Eye check-Check your rabbit’s eyes regularly for any changes. If you notice any changes,contact your vet right away so she can look at your rabbit’s eyes.

Clean cage or hutch-Keep your rabbit’s cage cleaned, remove the old straw and add fresh straw. Clean out the litter box. Remove old, stay or moldy hay from the hay rack. This will reduce bacteria from growing.

Good grooming– Rabbits are good groomers. They lick and clean other rabbit’s fur around the eyes, this helps prevent infection. If your rabbit is alone, you can keep her eyes clean by wiping them. This keeps them from getting sore.

Vet checks-Take your rabbit to your vet for check ups. Your vet can spot things early on that you might miss. Preventative care is always best for your rabbit.