Weepy eyes in rabbits are not always a sign of a major health crisis. Just like us, our fluffy friends can experience eye discharge for a variety of reasons, some less concerning than others. From a simple irritant like a speck of dust to more complex issues such as dental disease or infections.
Usually, a bit of temporary teariness in your rabbit’s eyes is not something to majorly worry about. It could be something as minor as an allergy or an environmental irritant, like hay dust. However, if the weepy eye doesn’t recover quickly on its own, it’s best to get it checked out by a qualified veterinarian because it can be an indication of a more serious problem.
What you should consider is this—when you notice their eyes looking a little more watery than usual, it might be wise to pencil in a visit to the vet. Rabbits are masters at hiding discomfort, so it’s better to be the cautious pet parent. A checkup can help ensure those tears aren’t a clue to an underlying condition that needs treatment.
When your rabbit has weepy eyes, it could just be some environmental factors that aren’t caused by an underlying health problem. If these are the cause, the issue will usually resolve itself in a few days or require some minor changes to your rabbit’s habitat. Here’s a breakdown to help you identify and address potential issues.
When your rabbit’s eyes get teary, it might be down to something as common as allergies. Just like you, rabbits can have allergic reactions to a variety of things in their environment. Think about whether you’ve introduced anything new to their space recently. This could be:
- Bedding: Some types of wood shavings, particularly cedar and pine, can be irritating.
- Pollen: Seasonal changes might bring about allergies in your furry friend.
- Household chemicals: Cleaning agents or air fresheners could be too harsh for your bunny’s sensitive eyes.
If you notice these signs, consider reviewing everything in your rabbit’s environment. Switching out bedding, especially to dust-free alternatives, or minimizing the use of certain chemicals around them can be a good start. You can also switch to a different type of hay (such as orchard hay) or switch to a different hay brand.
2. They have something stuck in their eye
If your rabbit’s eye looks watery, it might be because they’ve got something caught in it. Just like us, rabbits can get bits of dust or fur stuck in their eyes. When this happens, their natural response is to produce more tears to try and flush out the irritant.
What can you do?
- First, take a peek. If you see something, avoid touching the eye directly.
- If it’s visible and safe, gently guide it to the corner of the eye with a moist cotton swab.
- If it seems risky or the object won’t budge, or if your rabbit’s discomfort continues, get professional help from your vet. They can safely remove the object and check for any damage.
When you notice your bunny’s eyes getting a bit teary, one common culprit could be an injury. This can range from a small scratch on the surface of the eye, known as a corneal abrasion, to more serious trauma. Here’s a quick rundown of what can cause eye injuries:
- Scratches: Your rabbit’s eyes are delicate, and even a rough bit of bedding can cause a scratch.
- Foreign Objects: Bits of hay, dust, or other small particles can get lodged in your rabbit’s eye and lead to an abrasion.
- Accidents: Rabbits are quick and sometimes their speed leads to bumps and bruises, including to their eyes.
Minor scratches will still heal on their own. However, If your rabbit’s eye doesn’t improve quickly or if you suspect a more serious injury, it’s essential to seek veterinary attention to avoid complications.
4. Poor ventilation
Poor ventilation causing dust and chemicals to accumulate in the rabbits living area can also be a common culprit of weepy eyes. Picture your rabbit hopping around — if their environment’s dusty, those sensitive eyes could easily become irritated. Ammonia from urine in an unclean cage is also a common irritant, so keeping their living space clean with ample fresh air or ventilation can prevent weepy eyes.
5. Quick temperature changes
Rabbits are also sensitive to swift changes in weather and can easily develop weepy eyes if it gets too hot or too dry in a short period of time. This is something I used to notice on the onset of summer every year with one of my rabbits. The first few days the weather was warmer, I’d start to see she had a bit of teary eyes and I’d know it was time to get the air conditioner set up.
Underlying Health Problems
While it’s common for weepy eyes to be caused by environmental factors that are not super dangerous for rabbits, it’s also possible for them to be caused by underlying health problems. This is why it’s important to see a rabbit veterinarian for weepy eyes, even if you suspect it’s not a serious problem.
1. Dental disease
Dental issues are a surprisingly common culprit for weepy eyes in rabbits. Rabbit teeth grow continuously, and sometimes they don’t wear down as they should. This can lead to the roots of the teeth being pushed farther into the skull, putting pressure against the rabbits eyes and tear ducts, causing teary eyes.
Keep an eye out for signs like drooling or difficulty eating, as these are also indications of dental distress. Learn more about potential symptoms of dental disease of overgrown teeth in rabbits.
2. Blocked tear ducts
Watery eyes could also be due to blocked tear ducts. If the ducts that drain tears from the eyes to the nasal cavity are blocked, tears can’t flow normally, leading to a backup—think of a clogged sink. This can be caused by dental issues, or it can be a problem on its own. If it’s not caused by other underlying issues, the rabbit will likely just need the tear ducts flushed before their eyes return to normal.
3. Corneal ulcers
My sister’s rabbit had a perpetual weepy eye at one point, and we found out that her bunny had a tiny corneal ulcer, likely caused by a little scratch scratch. Luckily it was quite small, so a treatment of antibacterial eye drops was able to help very quickly.
Left untreated, ulcers can lead to complications such as blindness, so it really is best to see a vet as soon as you realize your rabbit’s weepy eyes are not improving.
Snuffles, also known as Pasteurellosis, is a common respiratory condition that might cause your bunny to have weepy eyes. It’s caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida. This can lead to a number of other symptoms too, including:
- Nasal discharge: Usually snotty and sticky.
- Sneezing: Your rabbit might sound like it’s got a tiny cold.
- Matted fur: Around the nose and front paws (from wiping their nose).
This infection is more than just a case of the common cold though. If left untreated, it can be deadly for rabbits. So, if you see these signs, a vet visit is non-negotiable. They might recommend antibiotics to tackle the bacteria and other treatments to ease your rabbit’s discomfort. But keep this in mind; stress can be a trigger. So, give your bunny a cozy and calm environment to help prevent flare-ups.
- Learn more about causes and symptoms of snuffles in rabbits
When your bunny’s eyes start getting watery or a bit goopy, it could be conjunctivitis. That’s just a fancy word for inflammation of the tissue lining their eyelids and covering their eyeball. It’s like getting pink eye—uncomfortable, but typically manageable.
Symptoms to watch for:
- Discharge (could be clear or cloudy)
What’s causing the irritation?
- Bacterial infections
- Viral infections
- Something in the environment (like dust or perfume)
To give your rabbit some relief, you’ll want to gently wipe away any buildup around their eyes with a damp cloth. Don’t use any over-the-counter drops without chatting with your vet first. They’ll probably want to check out your rabbit to figure out exactly what the cause is. Sometimes, they’ll prescribe antibiotic drops if bacteria are the culprits.
- “Dacryocystitis in Rabbits.” Veterinary Vision Center. February 2021. https://veterinaryvisioncenter.com/dacryocystitis-in-rabbits/
- Dana M. Krempels. “Runny Eyes, Runny Nose: What Do They Mean?” House Rabbit Society. https://houserabbit.org/runny-eyes-runny-nose-what-do-they-mean/
- “Weepy eyes in rabbits.” PDSA. January 2021. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/symptoms/weepy-eyes-in-rabbits
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