What is Excessive Tears (Epiphora)?
Normally, tears are drained away by the nasolacrimal canal, which begins in the corner of the eyes and empties in the nasal cavity. Many problems can cause this to malfunction. Due to the wide range of causes, such as dental issues, infections, blockages, eyes issues, and even cancers, it can be a common occurrence. If left unchecked, it can lead to secondary infections, and loss of fur due to constant grooming.
Epiphora is an abnormal amount of flowing tears, and can be seen as a constant wetness in eyes and in fur. It is the result of either an issue in the tear ducts, in the eyes themselves, or most commonly in the nasolacrimal canal which collects the tears in a healthy system.
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Symptoms of Excessive Tears (Epiphora) in Rabbits
- Runny eyes
- Wet fur around eyes, face and front legs
- Dried crusts from tears near eyes
- Fur loss
- Inflamed skin
- Tear staining of hair and skin
- Painful areas of skin
Causes of Excessive Tears (Epiphora) in Rabbits
There are two primary causes of epiphora. Obstruction in nasolacrimal canals in the most common reason, and can be due to one of many conditions, including:
- Congenital problems
- Molar or incisor roots that press on the nasolacrimal canal
- Dental infections
- Dental disease
- Bone loss due to age, resulting in pinching of the nasolacrimal duct
- Cancers or abscesses in the eyes, sinus area or bone
- Upper respiratory infections
- Tear duct infections or disease
- Nasal duct blockage
- Dacryocystitis, or nasolacrimal canal infection, generally caused by bacteria or fungus
- Cellular debris build up in nasolacrimal duct
- Paralysis in facial nerve that interferes with healthy nasolacrimal canal function, resulting from trauma, surgery, or an event affecting the nervous system, such as a stroke
- Chronic Rhinitis
Overproduction of tears may be the other reason why epiphora is occurring in your rabbit. The causes of this include:
- Eye injury, such as on the cornea
- Eye infections
- Eye abnormalities, such as abnormal eyelash growth or entropion, eyelid inversion
- Ocular pain
- Abnormally positioned hairs
- Inflamed meibomian glands inside the eyelid
- Rhinitis, inflammation of the nose lining
- Sinusitis, inflammation of the sinuses
Diagnosis of Excessive Tears (Epiphora) in Rabbits
Once you notice excessive tears in your rabbit for a continued amount of time, schedule an appointment for a complete examination, including an oral exam. Since there is such a range of causes for epiphora in your rabbit, your veterinarian may use many other techniques to discern the true cause. A corneal issue can be determined by testing your rabbit’s sensitivity to light. Corneal ulcers or a fungal infection can be seen by staining the eye temporarily to view under ultraviolet light. Cultures may be taken to determine if a bacterial infection is present. Tests including X-ray, ultrasound, endoscopy, CT scan, and biopsy can all be used to look for and identify abnormal masses or issues that may be causing the problem.
Treatment of Excessive Tears (Epiphora) in Rabbits
Due to the possible range of causes, there are many treatments available to combat epiphora in your rabbit. Topical antibiotic eye ointments and NSAIDS may be administered to provide immediate relief.
If the cause is determined to be conjunctivitis or a cellular debris blockage in the nasolacrimal canal, antibiotic eye drops and corticosteroids will be prescribed, and a tear duct flush may be administered. Conjunctivitis is transmitted through direct contact from another infected rabbit, so be sure any other rabbits in the same environment are checked, and the bedding is replaced. Dacryocystitis may also need a nasolacrimal flush and topical antibiotics, and may require dental treatment.
If it is a dental reason, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibiotic drugs can be prescribed, and depending on the severity, surgery may be required for abnormal tooth root growth. Generally, the diet is examined, and may be changed. Treatment for glaucoma includes antihypertensive medicine, and in some cases, surgery. Rhinitis will often require antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and even antihistamines. Surgery may be required for eye abnormalities, such as entropion, or eyelid inversion, and results in a complete correction of the condition.
Other conditions may involve other procedures, so it is important to correctly diagnose the true cause. Often, epiphora is a recurring condition, so a lifelong protocol will often be discussed for the continued health of your rabbit.
Recovery of Excessive Tears (Epiphora) in Rabbits
You may have follow-up medicines to administer, such as eye ointments, antibiotics, antihistamines for reoccurring sinus issues, and NSAIDS for pain management. Depending on the underlying cause of the condition, future veterinary visits and procedures may be needed.
Since epiphora can be recurring, lifelong care is recommended for the health of your rabbit. This includes constant grooming, such as wiping away tears with an antiseptic on a moist cloth, keeping face and fur clean, and keeping your rabbit’s environment bacteria free. Severe epiphora may entail daily face washing with running water. Having a bonded mate living with your rabbit can significantly help grooming.