Q: Recently, I noticed that my eight-year-old Holland Lop rabbit’s eyes have turned sore and red. His right eye seems to be a little more blood-shot than his left but he does not seem to be experiencing any pain. What could be the cause of this redness and what can be done to treat it?
A: Rabbits’ eyes can be very sensitive and prone to infection. It is essential to clean your bunny’s face and eyes daily with some sterile saline and cotton pads. While cleaning him, it is a good opportunity for you to observe his eyes closely. It is especially important since your rabbit is already eight-years-old.
The most common cause of red eyes is allergies. Rabbits, like humans, can suffer from allergies and their symptoms can range from having watery eyes, redness of the eye and its lids, to pain and sneezing with nasal discharge. These can be caused by dust from the home, hay dust, cleaning detergents, air purifiers and even litter bedding. Hence it is important to ensure that your rabbit does not suffer from allergies related to such items. In order to treat the allergy, antihistamines can be prescribed by your veterinarian. Cleaning sterile saline and topical eye drops can also be used to alleviate the condition. Allergies, if not controlled, can lead to eye and lid infections.
The second cause can be related to trauma. Self-trauma occurs when there is excessive grooming and scratching of his eyes and ears. Make sure his nails are always trimmed short and not sharp. At times, rabbits can be hurt by hay, with the sharp and hard strands poking their eyes. Ensure that the hay is placed properly in bowls or hay trays to minimise trauma to your bunny. If the itch and irritation get worse, the eye can be badly damaged. Immediate medical attention is recommended.
As your rabbit is old, it is also possible that he has cataracts. This condition occurs when there is increased mineral deposit to the lens in older rabbits. This is an illness that is hereditary and usually occurs when the rabbit is above six years of age. Cataracts can lead to redness and pain to the eyeball, glaucoma (increased eyeball pressure) and eventually loss of vision. An eye specialist will be able to thoroughly check the condition of the eye and may recommend surgery to restore vision (cataract surgery) or to remove the eye ball to prevent further pain and infection.