Teary eyes is a very common condition in our rabbits. It usually starts with redness around the eye rim and wetness of the fur but can deteriorates to inflammation and fur loss if left untreated. At the wonderland, we have seen various degrees of wet eyes of different causes. We hope to share some of our experience to ensure early diagnosis so your rabbits can recover and stay healthy.
The condition of teary eyes is also known as epiphora. A healthy rabbit will produce tears to ‘bathe’ the eye and drain it out via the tear duct. The tear duct is located at the corner of the eye closest to the nose and is connected through the skull and empties out through the nasal cavity. A rabbit with epiphora likely has a blockage or swell at the tear duct which caused an abnormal accumulation of tears that cannot be drained properly. This condition is especially common among lops and dwarves which are bred to have shorter face and have narrower tear ducts.
Here are some potential causes of epiphora:
1. Bacterial Infection – Especially if the discharge is yellowish and thick, bacterial infection is a common cause of epiphora. In the event the bacteria is infectious such as Pastereulla or Staphylococcus, it can easily spreads through the nasal ducts, respiratory tract and even to the jaw. This can result in further complications such as abscess which can be very challenging to treat.
2. Dental abnormalities – Rabbits’ teeth are ever-growing and the bases of some upper molars are located just under the eye and tear duct. In the even there is a rotten molar or an abnormal growth, it can partially or completely obstruct the tear duct, result in watery eyes.
3. Physical abnormalities – This can include debris that flew into their eye resulting in a blockage. Complicated abnormalities could be trauma of the eye surface such as scratch or erosion which can deteriorated to ulceration if left untreated.
4. Allergies – The dust from the hay, bedding and even bad haze can often result in allergic reaction on our rabbit’s big round eyes. A good practice will be to dust off the hay before serving, using pelletized paper bedding over wooden shaving, and turning on air purifier to ensure a dust-free environment.
5. Glaucoma – This is a condition of abnormal high fluid pressure inside the eye and it can affect the retina and optic nerve, leading to blindness. This condition is not so common in rabbits but the chances of getting it does increase with age. We typically advice rabbit owners with senior rabbits (above 6) to consider annual health check to ensure a trusted vet is monitoring their health.
As you can see, there are many causes for teary eyes and it’s hard to pinpoint what the cause is unless checked by a vet. A good vet will conduct physical inspection of the eye, respiratory as well as dental. Diagnostic may range from an eye stain to check for ulceration to X-ray to check for dental abnormalities. We hope with this information, you will be more prepared to help your rabbit when you observe this condition and treat it early before it becomes too difficult to manage.