Q: George, my rabbit, seems to have wet eyes. It’s been going on for about a week and despite my flushing it with water and drying it as often as I can, the wetness still persists. He doesn’t seem to be suffering or experiencing any changes in appetite and behaviour. Could it be something in his cage that is causing the eye irritation?
A: There is definitely something irritating George’s eyes. It is possible that he is suffering from an allergy, which is an adverse reaction to an irritant that can cause excessive tearing, itchy eyes and even inflamed red eyes. At times, George may even sneeze and cough. Dust, cleaning detergents, hay dust, air fresheners, and plant pollens can cause allergic reactions.
Ensure that there are no possible allergens in his surroundings. Always check the cage for sharp edges or cracked parts that can cause injury to his eyes. Some rabbits love to lie in their hutches and urinate and defecate in there as well. If George does that, it is advisable that you clean his bedding daily to prevent the ammonia fumes (from the urine) from causing irritation to the eyes. Such fumes can also cause respiratory infection over a long period of time. I would suggest using cotton pads soaked with sterile buffered saline to gently clean his eyes at least twice daily.
Rabbits, however, are very good at hiding their sicknesses. I strongly suggest that you bring George for a veterinary check-up. It is important for the vet to assess the quality and quantity of the tears produced. The vet will also assess his body weight and confirm any swelling or pain around the eyes. Discomfort or swelling around the eyes can mean infection to the eyelids and tear ducts. An ophthalmoscope will be used to establish the condition of the chambers of the eyeball. An oral examination to check the teeth is also essential to ensure good dental occlusions as dental problems can cause pain and teary eyes. An infection of the eyelids and the tear ducts can also cause discomfort to George and if so, the vet will prescribe topical or oral medicine to help. Should dental malocclusions be present, George will need to be put under general anaesthesia for corrective trimming and filing of his teeth.
Photo source: rabbitsonline.net