What is Red Eye?
The symptoms displayed by your pet may vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition, however, common concurrent symptoms are swelling, pain, and redness of the conjunctiva. As this condition can lead to permanent visual damage and other complications it is important your pet sees your veterinarian for treatment.
Red eye in rabbits is a common symptom that can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions. These include bacterial infections, environmental causes of irritation, damage to the eye such as keratitis, corneal ulcers or dental disease.
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Symptoms of Red Eye in Rabbits
You may notice your rabbit showing the following signs:
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Discharge from the eyes and nose
- Signs of respiratory tract infection such as noisy breathing
- Lethargy and depression
- Alopecia around the eyes and nasal area
- Tear staining of the fur on eyes, nasal area and cheeks
Causes of Red Eye in Rabbits
There are a number of conditions that cause red eye in rabbits. These include:
- Dacryocystitis – The infection of the lacrimal sac, often caused by or related to dental disease
- Conjunctivitis – The inflammation and infection of the conjunctiva caused by trauma, fungal, bacterial or viral infection
- Dental Disease – A complication of dental disease may be swelling of the face or ocular discharge
- Glaucoma - This is a common condition in rabbits caused by intraocular pressure, symptoms of this condition include a cloudy white cornea and blindness
- Keratitis – Inflammation of the cornea usually due to trauma
- Corneal Ulcers – Open sore on the cornea, this is one of the most common causes of ophthalmic problems in rabbits
Diagnosis of Red Eye in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will perform a full clinical examination of your pet and carefully examine your his eyes by conducting a full ophthalmologic exam. Your veterinarian will examine the structures of the eye including the conjunctiva, cornea, lacrimal ducts, retina and eyelids. Further examinations that may be performed are:
- Nasolacrimal cannulation, which examines the duct for patency and allows visibility of purulent material
- Dacryocystorhinography, a contrast radiographic procedure which may be indicated if obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct is suspected
- Fluorescein dye, introduced to the eye surface while the pet is awake and indicates scratches and corneal ulcers under black light
- Culture and sensitivity, swabs may be taken of ocular or nasal discharge to identify and isolate the species of bacteria causing infection
- Tonometry, a screening test for glaucoma, used to measure the internal pressure of the eye
Treatment of Red Eye in Rabbits
There are a range of treatments that can be used for this condition which vary depending on the underlying cause.
Topical broad-spectrum ophthalmic antibiotic solutions may be indicated for your pet. In some cases, culture and sensitivity results will be performed and this will allow your veterinarian to isolate causative bacteria and select the most effective antibiotic treatment. To provide your pet with pain relief and reduce inflammation topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory eye ointments may also be prescribed. If your pet is suffering from glaucoma a topical anti-glaucoma drug may be prescribed. Other therapies that may be beneficial are tear replacement therapy and topical antimicrobials.
Your rabbit may require systemic therapy for their treatment. These may include systemic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as meloxicam to provide relief from discomfort and reduce inflammation, and systemic antibiotic therapy if your veterinarian feels that topical treatment alone will be ineffective.
In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary for your pet’s treatment. Procedures that may be required are:
- Nasolacrimal duct flushing is performed under sedation using saline to gently flush the nasolacrimal punctum; in some chronic cases of dacryocystitis and conjunctivitis the long-term damage may cause this duct to become narrow due to scar tissue buildup, in these cases your pet may have insufficient tear drainage that causes the tears to drain on the face instead
- Surgery may be indicated for your pet due to deep or refractory corneal ulcers or if eye pressure caused by glaucoma is unable to be controlled using eye drop medications; ablation or enucleation may be necessary for your rabbit
- If your pet’s eye condition was caused or exacerbated by dental disease the appropriate dental treatment should be performed if your pet has no contraindications for anesthesia
Recovery of Red Eye in Rabbits
Your pet’s prognosis is dependent on the condition that was causing the symptoms. However, to increase your pet’s chances of a full recovery it is vital that the topical eye treatments are administered for your pet. It is important that your pet is monitored closely during recovery and your veterinarian is contacted if symptoms worsen.