What Causes Rabbit Eye Infections?

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Most rabbit eye infections are treatable.
Most rabbit eye infections are treatable. (Image: indigolotos/iStock/Getty Images)

Rabbit owners never want to hear that their pet might be sick with an infection, especially when it comes to those big, adorable eyes. While rabbit eye infections are not uncommon, the good news is that the more common ones are usually quite treatable when properly diagnosed and treated by a medical professional.

Pasteurellosis

Rabbit owners regard this disease as an "elephant in the room." Pasteurellosis is carried by most domestic rabbits, although many never show signs of the illness. Dr. Astrid Kruse, DVM, however, notes that bunny conjunctivitis and tear duct blockage are only two of many nasty ways in which pasteurellosis can present. This disease can also affect a bunny's respiratory system, his heart and other parts of the body, not only his eyes. Through judicious use of antibiotics, this infection can successfully be treated.

Dacryocystitis

Another common type of rabbit eye infection is dacryocystitis, or infection of the nasolacrimal system. This ailment results in the tear ducts running from a rabbit's eyes to her nose. Symptoms include a tearful appearance and sometimes a thick, gooey, whitish discharge around the eyes. Eye drops and antibiotics are usually prescribed, and can successfully treat this type of infection.

Encephilatozoan cuniculi

The vascular system of your rabbit's eye is called the uvea. By the time you notice an infection of Encephalitozoan cuniculi, it is most likely too late to do anything about it. This condition is characterized by a white mass appearing in your pet's uvea. Dr. David L. Williams, DVM, advises that treatment may include surgery, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), topical steroid creams or anti-parasite medication. This infection occurs while the rabbit is stil in utero.

Abscesses

Abscesses can appear anywhere in a rabbit's body, including the eyes. When an abscess grows behind a rabbit's eye, it can cause what's called exophthalmos, the medical term for extreme eye bulge. In some pets, this is considered an acceptable way to describe a breed trait, but it's also used to describe an abnormal medical condition. Dr. David L. Williams, DVM, advises that in extreme cases, euthanasia may be the kindest course of action. He goes on to add that infections of this type are usually recurring, even with antibiotic treatment.

Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a rabbit-specific disease that's spread through insect bites. Fleas, mites and mosquitoes all have the potential to pass this lethal disease on to your beloved pet rabbit. If your rabbit becomes infected, several areas begin to swell and fill with fluid -- especially the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. High fevers, seizures and general depression follow. There is no known cure for this disease. A vaccine was developed, but is not currently available to rabbits living in the U.S.

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