Conjunctivitis, also known as weepy eye, is a bacterial eye infection that can affect your pet rabbit. This infection is potentially life-threatening for rabbits, so if your rabbit develops it, they need emergency veterinary care. Here are five things you need to know about this condition.
What causes it?
Conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria. The bacteria can be spread by direct contact with an infected rabbit or through contact with contaminated objects, like bedding or toys.
What are the symptoms?
If your rabbit has conjunctivitis, you'll notice that one or both of their eyes are squinted or completely closed. The white portion of their eyes will be red and swollen. You will see pus behind the eyelids and white or yellow crust around the eyes as well. Your rabbit will try to itch their eyes by rubbing them with their front paws. If you notice these changes in your rabbit's eyes, you need to take them to a vet right away.
Is it serious?
Conjunctivitis may seem like a fairly minor disease, but it is very uncomfortable for your rabbit—and when rabbits are uncomfortable, they don't feel like eating and drinking. This is a major problem for rabbits as they can die after only 24 hours without food. When rabbits stop eating, their digestive system quickly slows down. This allows blockages to form within the intestines and may result in a painful death for affected rabbits. Fortunately, you can protect your rabbit from this serious complication by feeding them.
You may need to force feed your rabbit with a syringe until they feel like eating on their own again. Your vet may recommend a commercial paste for this purpose or recommend making a paste of mashed pellets and water to feed your rabbit. Treats like carrots can also be given to entice your rabbit to eat; generally, carrots are supposed to given in moderation, but when rabbits are sick, they can be given freely to keep your rabbit's digestive system moving.
How is conjunctivitis treated?
Your vet will give you a medicated ointment to apply to your pet's eyes. This ointment may contain antibiotics or a combination of antibiotics and steroids. If possible, get a friend or family member to hold your rabbit for you while you apply the eye drops; it can be difficult to apply eye drops to a squirming rabbit on your own.
It's common for this infection to recur, but to reduce the risk of this, you should thoroughly clean your pet's cage to get rid of bacteria. Sanitize the entire cage (don't forget to clean the bars) and replace the bedding. You should also sanitize hard, smooth items like rabbit houses. Items that can't be easily sanitized, like plush toys or wood chews, should be thrown out and replaced.
Can you catch it from your rabbit?
People can also get conjunctivitis (it's called "pink eye" when people get it) so make sure to be careful when handling your sick rabbit. Wear gloves while touching your pet or cleaning their cage, and be very careful not to touch or rub your eyes. Remember to wash your hands after removing the gloves as an additional precaution. Pink eye is mostly just an inconvenience for people, so if you do get sick, the main concern will be that you could re-infect your rabbit.
If you think your rabbit has conjunctivitis, take them to a vet immediately. This condition is much more serious than it seems, and if your rabbit doesn't get treatment, they could stop eating and die. Fortunately, the condition is easily treated, so after a visit to the vet, your rabbit will soon be on the mend. For more immediate assistance, contact local resources like Animal Emergency Clinic.