What is Eye Inflammation?
Known as uveitis, intraocular inflammation, or conjunctivitis, depending upon the location, eye inflammation is common in rabbits. There are multiple possible causes for eye inflammation, and it may be a symptom of an underlying condition. It is important that you take your rabbit to the veterinarian for an examination in order to determine what is causing the inflammation and to avoid damage to his eyes.
Inflammation can occur in different portions of the eyes of your rabbit and may or may not be due to an underlying medical condition.
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Symptoms of Eye Inflammation in Rabbits
The following are signs to watch for regarding eye inflammation in rabbits:
- Redness in your rabbit’s eyes
- Your rabbit rubbing his eyes with his front feet
- Milky discharge from your rabbit’s eyes
As eye inflammation may be a symptom of another issue, it is important to keep note of any additional physical or behavioral changes in your rabbit.
There are several types of possible Inflammation in the eyes of rabbits:
- Uveitis - Inflammation in the middle layer of the eye
- Conjunctivitis - Inflammation in the outer layer of the eye; in rabbits, conjunctivitis is often linked to other diseases like dacryocystitis or Pasteurella multocida (a bacterial infection)
- Dacryocystitis - Inflammation of the tear duct
Causes of Eye Inflammation in Rabbits
There are many infectious and noninfectious diseases that can be responsible for eye inflammation.
- Bacterial disease - Inflammation in the eye of your rabbit may be due to a bacterial infection (Pasteurella spp., for example)
- In cases of bacterial conjunctivitis, transmission occurred by your rabbit having direct contact with either an infected rabbit or objects that were contaminated with the bacteria (for example, bedding)
- Parasite - Inflammation may be caused by the parasite E. cuniculi
- Additional causes of eye inflammation include rabbitpox, dental disease (tooth root inflammation or abscessation), chronic rhinitis, eyelid disease, glaucoma, corneal ulcers, and physical trauma
Diagnosis of Eye Inflammation in Rabbits
As eye inflammation may be a symptom of an underlying condition and can lead to blindness if not controlled, your rabbit should be examined by a veterinarian. You may be asked questions about when you first noticed the inflammation, as well as whether you have noticed any additional physical or behavioral changes in your rabbit.
Depending on what your veterinarian notices during the physical exam, which will involve examining your rabbit’s eyes (including his sensitivity to light), other tests may be ordered. Your veterinarian may choose to stain the eye of your rabbit with a temporary dye and view it with ultraviolet light to see if there are corneal ulcers or a fungal infection. To determine whether there are any abnormal masses in your rabbit’s eye, your veterinarian may use radiography, ultrasound or endoscopy. Should a mass be found, a biopsy may be done.
Other options your veterinarian may consider depending on the physical exam are ophthalmoscopy, aqueous paracentesis, tonography and dacryocystorhinostomy. Blood tests may be ordered to determine whether bacteria are present.
Treatment of Eye Inflammation in Rabbits
Treatment of your rabbit will depend upon the cause of the inflammation. When the cause is unknown, topical corticosteroids along with systemic NSAIDs may be used for treatment.
Your veterinarian may recommend treating your rabbit with topical chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin or gentamicin, as well as a systemic, broad spectrum antibiotic. Flushing the tear duct may be helpful when your rabbit is experiencing chronic infections.
Your veterinarian may recommend using saline to flush the duct through the nasolacrimal punctum.
Topical steroids and fenbendazole may be recommended.
Noninfectious intraocular inflammation
High initial doses of systemic corticosteroids (for example prednisone 1-2 mg/kg) along with topical corticosteroids (for example 0.5% or 1% prednisolone acetate) may be prescribed. In some cases of infectious disease, your rabbit can be successfully treated first with antibiotics and after 24-48 hours of starting antibiotic treatment, low doses of systemic corticosteroids can be added.
Recovery of Eye Inflammation in Rabbits
The need for follow-up appointments will depend on what is causing the inflammation of your rabbit’s eyes. Should your rabbit be given a steroid treatment, particularly if used long term, it will be important to work with your veterinarian on weaning him off the medication slowly upon the resolution of the inflammation, in order to avoid adrenocortical suppression.
Depending on the medication your rabbit is prescribed, it may also be recommended that your rabbit be evaluated regularly for gastrointestinal, liver, and renal changes or problems. As recurrent infection is common, you will want to monitor your rabbit and keep your veterinarian apprised of any concerns.