Rabbits are known to have some unique features which include their eyes. Since all rabbits and hares are known as prey animals, their eyes are extremely important to their livelihood. A rabbit's field of vision is approximately 190 degrees which allows them to keep a steady watch over their surroundings.
A rabbit's eyes are about eight times more sensitive than a human's eyes and researchers believe that they are not color blind, a rabbit may be able to see shades of blue and green. Because the eyes of a rabbit are so important, rabbit owners should learn about some of the different diseases and ailments that can affect a rabbit's eyes.
Eye infections are not uncommon in rabbits. Causes of eye infections vary from debris getting into the eye to tear ducts becoming clogged. These infections are quite noticeable as the tears will come out over the eyelids which stain the fur. Clogged tear ducts are typically caused by debris or dust which can cause the eye to form a crusty layer or may ooze puss from the infected eye. Dental problems can also lead to eye infections when the teeth intrude on the nasal ducts.
Infections of the eye require veterinarian treatment. The eyes of a rabbit have nerves that connect to the brain, infections left untreated can lead to encephalitis (brain infection) which can cause the death of the infected rabbit. A veterinarian can prescribe medications to clear the infection but will also be able to check the teeth for any signs of dental problems. Prevention is best, keeping a rabbit's home clean from dust and debris is important to their overall health. Rabbit owners can keep the eyes clean with a damp cloth when needed.
Often referred to as "pink eye" in humans, conjunctivitis affects the membranes that surround the eye causing them to swell and appear a dark pink or red. The eye will secrete a thick discharge and may swell to the point of not being able to open. When the eyelid swells shut, the discharge or pus can build up behind the eyelid. Veterinarian care is required for conjunctivitis with a treatment of antibiotics usually healing the infection.
Eye ulcerations can be caused from several factors like bacteria and certain diseases but is typically caused from some type of trauma to the eye. Corneal ulcers that develop on the eyeball itself should be treated by a veterinarian. Cancer and tumors of the eye can also affect rabbits which may start out appearing as a small ulcer on the eye. Untreated ulcers can form enzymes that destroy healthy eye tissue leading to blindness. Treatment varies depending upon the severity and cause of the ulcer.
Just like with humans, cataracts can become a problem as a rabbit ages. The eye lens can become cloudy and visibility decreases. Laser surgery is an option for cataracts in rabbits which is the only treatment. Cataracts do typically lead to a gradual blindness of the affected eye.
Infections and diseases to the eye that do not heal after treatment could mean an underlying problem. It is important to seek veterinarian care early for any problems you may find with your rabbit's eyes. The earlier the disease or infection can be treated, the better chances for the rabbit at not having permanent damage to the eye.