Red Eye in Rabbits

Hyperemia and Red Eye in Rabbits

Red eye is a relatively common condition which causes swelling or irritation in the rabbit’s eye or eyelid. This appearance of blood vessels in the eyeball can develop because of various reasons, including many systemic or body diseases. If your rabbit has red eye, seek veterinary advice immediately, as it is generally a secondary symptom to a more serious condition.

Symptoms and Types

The signs and symptoms of red eye and related conditions often depend on the underlying cause. For example, if the red eye is due to a dental disorder, there may be signs of tooth decay or dental disease in the animal. Other common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Impaired vision
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Eye discharge
  • Extra tissue around the eyes
  • Nasal discharge and upper respiratory infection or cold
  • Hair loss and crusting in the mucous membrane, especially around the eyes, nasal area and cheeks
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Abnormal posture
  • Facial masses


Because there are many causes to rabbit red eye, it is often difficult to identify the exact cause. However, some factors may include:

  • Bacterial infections, including Treponema cuniculi (or rabbit syphilis), which can cause swollen eyelids
  • Conjunctivitis, a common disorder causing red eye that can result from allergies, bacterial or viral irritants; sometimes occurring as a side-effect of a respiratory tract infection
  • Keratitis, which is usually a fungal infection of the eye, and which can follow an injury to the eye
  • Glaucoma, which if left untreated, can cause blindness
  • Dental diseases, which can bring debris in the eye, causing inflammation or blocking a tear duct


The veterinarian will run a variety of laboratory tests to diagnose the cause for the rabbit’s red eye. This includes skin and other type of cultures, as well as exams testing for cataracts and other ocular diseases that can impair vision and health. If the veterinarian is still unable to diagnose the condition, they may run special tests including:

  • Tonometry – measures the eye pressure in order to diagnose glaucoma and other related disorders
  • Schirmer tear test – detects dry eye , a condition which can lead to red eye
  • Cytologic examinations – identifies infections within the tear ducts and surrounding tissues
  • Fluorescein stains – helps rule out ulcerative keratitis, a condition which can lead to red eye


Anything having to do with the eye


The term for a type of medication that impacts immunity, metabolism, sexual characteristics, and other such elements of a living thing


Something that is related to the whole body and not just one particular part or organ

mucous membrane

A special type of tissue that exudes mucus


A medical condition in which the cornea becomes inflamed


A passage in the body with walls


A disorder that has resulted from intraocular pressure


Decomposing of matter with the help of fungus and bacteria; matter is completely oxidized.

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