If you have noticed anything odd about your rabbit’s eyes lately such as strange sights or smells, you may be worried that it has an infection. Eye infections are serious conditions that cause great discomfort and even heal issues for your rabbit.
What do I do if my rabbit has an eye infection? You should take your rabbit to the vet so they can prescribe antibiotics. You can also ease your rabbit’s discomfort by cleaning and soothing the infected eye.
What is an Eye Infection?
An eye infection, also called conjunctivitis, can come from bacteria, fungi, or a virus. Eye infections can happen anywhere in the eye and can affect one eye at a time or both eyes. They happen when the eye can’t get rid of a foreign object and tries over and over again to push it out. This causes irritation and inflammation as well as different types of discharge such as tears and mucus.
What Causes Eye Infections in Rabbits?
The main cause of eye infections in rabbits is irritants. This can be debris, bacteria, or even a virus. When something gets into the rabbit’s eye and irritates it, the eye reacts strongly and begins to try to get rid of the invasive object. The object can come from dust in hay, particles in paper bedding, or even feces. Untreated allergies can often develop into an eye infection because of the irritation that occurs. A variety of bacteria can cause infections, such as staphylococcus, bordatella, and streptococcus.
Some eye infections simply can’t be explained. There is often no discernible cause behind an eye infection in a rabbit except that rabbits are fragile animals that can easily get sick or injured. However, it’s important to look for a cause and explore underlying conditions rather than assuming. Dental issues can often be the cause of symptoms that appear to be caused by eye infections, making it seem as though the infection has no cause.
What are Symptoms of an Eye Infection?
The most prominent symptom of an eye infection in a rabbit is any kind of discharge, which could be either mucus or water. If your rabbit has some kind of irritant in its eye that has caused the infection, the eye will try to get rid of that irritant by watering and creating mucus to push it out. You may also see dried mucus around your rabbit’s eye as well as wet or matted fur. Your rabbit may paw at its eye as if it’s uncomfortable or in pain, and its behavior will probably change. It may become lethargic or less active, or it may have difficulty seeing and reacting to the things it sees.
What Does an Eye Infection Look Like?
An eye infection will usually develop gradually, so you may be able to identify it early on. If your rabbit’s eyes are irritated, they will become pink at first and may water or have small amounts of discharge. This is your first warning sign and you should address it as soon as you notice these symptoms. Once a rabbit’s eye is fully infected, it will become red and swollen. You may notice that your rabbit’s eye appears bloodshot or that it’s bulging, both of which are signs of serious eye conditions. You’ll also see crusty discharge around your rabbit’s eye that is caused by the infection.
Can I Smell an Eye Infection?
Rabbits do not naturally have an odor like dogs or cats sometimes do. If you smell anything bad or unusual while you are near your rabbit, this could be a sign of an infection. If the smell is urine or feces, your rabbit likely has a health issue that isn’t related to its eyes. However, if you notice a strange smell around your rabbit’s face, it’s possible it has an eye or ear infection.
What Do I Do if My Rabbit Has an Eye Infection?
If you notice that your rabbit has watery eyes for more than a few days, or has dried discharge or an inflamed area around their eye, you should contact a vet as soon as possible. An eye infection isn’t bad enough that you need to go to an emergency clinic, but it should be addressed as soon as you can make a regular appointment.
In the meantime, you should clean the eye or eyes thoroughly and keep a close watch on your rabbit. If your rabbit seems to have difficulty seeing, or if the irritation or inflammation gets worse, you may need to take your rabbit for an emergency vet visit. However, keeping the eye clean and soothing the skin around the eye should keep it from getting worse too quickly.
How Will a Vet Treat an Eye Infection?
A vet will clean the eye immediately if you haven’t already done so to remove as much debris and discharge as possible. They will usually investigate the cause of the eye infection to determine whether it’s bacterial, viral, or from another source such as allergies or a foreign object. Depending on the type of bacteria, the vet will choose an antibiotic to treat the infection and will probably prescribe a medicated cream to help soothe the eye as well as the area around the eye.
Just like with human antibiotics, you should finish the full dose with your rabbit even if symptoms go away before the medicine is done. Do not use antibiotics for other animals on rabbits! Many types of antibiotics are toxic to rabbits and it’s important not to try to administer medicine at home unless you’ve spoken to a vet first and gotten their approval.
What is a Good Eye Infection Home Treatment?
There are not many good home remedies for eye infections because most infections need to be treated with antibiotics. However, if you’re unable to get to a vet you can ease your rabbit’s situation by cleaning the infected eye or eyes and putting soothing gel on them.
Boiling turmeric with water will create a natural anesthetic, and turmeric is safe for rabbits to eat in small amounts in case your rabbit accidentally ingests some while grooming. You should boil the turmeric and then let the water cool completely before cleaning the eye with it, or you risk burning your bunny. You can also use aloe vera to soothe the area around the eye if it’s inflamed or irritated, but be careful to only use small amounts as it can have a laxative effect on rabbits if eaten. Coconut oil is a good remedy both for soothing the eye and healing the skin around the eye. Spread the coconut oil around the eye on the inflamed areas and massage it gently. You should do this 2-3 times per day until you are able to get to a veterinarian or the infection gets better.
Do not use tea tree oil on your rabbit! This is sometimes recommended as an anti-bacterial agent to help cure eye infections, but tea tree oil is highly toxic to rabbits and can cause irritation of the skin and eye as well as death if ingested.
How Long Does It Take for an Eye Infection to Go Away?
If your rabbit is on antibiotics and is taking them correctly, the eye infection should go away in a few days to a couple weeks depending on the severity and how well your rabbit responds. This will happen gradually, so you should see improvement over time within a few days. If you don’t see any improvement or the eye infection gets worse, contact your vet and let them know. There are multiple antibiotic options and your vet may choose to prescribe a different one.
If you are trying to treat a rabbit’s eye infection from home, there’s no telling how long it could take or whether it will work at all. You may see some improvement from cleaning the eye and soothing the affected area, so the key thing to watch for is whether the discharge has stopped. If it stops, monitor your rabbit for a few days to make sure the infection has healed. If you see no improvement within a few days of starting your home treatment, you should stop treating your rabbit’s eyes by yourself and consult a vet.
How Can I Keep My Rabbit from Getting an Eye Infection?
There are a number of ways you can prevent eye infections in your rabbit.
- It’s very important to keep your rabbit or rabbits in a clean environment. This is the number one way to prevent almost all illnesses. Clean litter boxes every day or two and clean enclosures once a week.
- Make sure that the hay you are feeding your rabbit isn’t dusty or causing allergies. Dusty hay can cause sneezing, respiratory infections, and eye infections.
- If you have more than one rabbit and one of them gets sick, separate this rabbit immediately to avoid spreading any illness to your other rabbits. This goes especially for bacterial infections that may be spread by contact.
- Keep a close watch on your rabbits and respond to changes in their behavior and appearance quickly. You can stop allergies or a small irritation from becoming a full blown infection by being aware and proactive.
Can an Eye Infection Kill a Rabbit?
An eye infection by itself will not kill a rabbit. If there are no underlying issues, the rabbit’s immune system will eventually overcome the infection on its own and the infection will go away. However, this can take weeks to months and is very uncomfortable and unhealthy for the rabbit.
However, if the eye infection is caused by another disease or condition, these could cause death. For example, an infection in the body that has spread to the eyes will likely result in the rabbit dying because the infection is so widespread. Teeth infections and abscesses that cause the eyes to water can also be fatal to rabbits if they stop eating due to the pain.
Can a Rabbit Go Blind from an Eye Infection?
Yes, if the infection is not treated quickly enough, a rabbit can go blind. The infection causes damage and scarring on the eye, which can damage or cover the cornea and pupil, causing the rabbit to go blind. This is irreversible, so it’s important to treat eye infections quickly and thoroughly instead of waiting for it to heal by itself.
Your rabbit may also temporarily not be able to see due to discharge and buildup. Dried discharge may seal the rabbit’s eye closed so that it can’t see out of the eye. To fix this, take a slightly warm cloth and gently place it over your rabbit’s eye. Don’t press on it and try not to get too much of your rabbit’s fur wet. This will soften the discharge until you can gently wipe it away. Make sure to keep your rabbit’s eyes clean to prevent this from happening while the infection is healing.
What Other Eye Problems Can Rabbits Have?
There are many different problems rabbits can have with their eyes due to how sensitive they are. These different issues are usually caused by invasive bacteria or fungi, or by
- If your rabbit has recently gotten into a fight or even simply been poked in the eye with hay, it may develop an ulcer in its eye. These can be treated with Fluorescein drops and antibiotics.
- Cataracts are another source of eye problems in rabbits, and can be caused by genetics, diet, injury, or infection. Cataracts can cause blindness and may need to be removed with surgery.
- Rabbits may also have other diseases such as keratitis, where the cornea becomes inflamed due to injury or fungal infection
- Glaucoma is a genetic condition especially common in New Zealand White rabbits which will cause the eye to bulge and become inflamed. It will present symptoms around 3-6 months of age.
How Can Dental Problems Cause Eye Infections?
Rabbits have very sensitive eyes, and because their bodies are so small, many different systems in their body interact. Other than infections, rabbits may have eye problems due to poor dental health. Dental health affects the rabbit’s overall health and especially the health of its face and eye. When the roots of a rabbit’s teeth are inflamed, overgrown, or have abscesses, they can press up against the tear ducts and cause watering and discharge.
If your vet can’t find any cause of an infection, they will probably take x-rays to make sure the teeth are healthy. Your rabbit may need to have teeth or roots removed, abscesses drained, or have their teeth trimmed. Antibiotics usually won’t have any effect in this situation because the inflammation is due to pressure on the glands and not a bacteria or virus. You may be able to tell that your rabbit has teeth problems rather than an eye infection if they are refusing to eat.
What Is Red Eye in Rabbits?
Red eye or pink eye is a term for almost any eye infection in rabbits. Red eye is most commonly used to describe infections where the eye is inflamed and bloodshot as in this situation the eye is usually red or pink. The area around the eye may also be red and inflamed due to irritation from the discharge.
What Is Myxomatosis in Rabbits?
Myxomatosis is a serious disease caused by the Myxoma virus. Symptoms of myxomatosis include lethargy, loss of appetite, and swollen ducts and glands. The swollen glands cause the eyes to water and have discharge, which may look like an eye infection. However, if you notice any of the other symptoms at the same time as the eye problems, this is a possibility. Myxomatosis can cause death within 14 days and it has a 99% mortality rate in domestic rabbits. There is no known cure or treatment. Your rabbit is most likely to get myxomatosis from a wild rabbit, who carry the disease but don’t get sick. It’s not a good idea to take in wild rabbits or allow them near your pets for that reason.
What are symptoms of an ear infection in rabbits? Rabbits with ear infections will shake their head or scratch at their ears frequently. They may also have a constantly tilted head or have trouble hearing.
What do I do if my rabbit is sick? Your best course of action is always to go to a veterinarian. A vet will be able to properly diagnose and treat your rabbit’s issue. Depending on the severity of the health issue, you may need to go to an emergency vet rather than a regular appointment.
How do I get my rabbit to take medicine? You can try offering pills as if they are a treat, or hide them in food. You can administer liquid from a syringe by wrapping your rabbit in a towel and placing the syringe in the side of its mouth, pushing the liquid out slowly.