Like our canine and feline friends, rabbits require regular veterinary care visits to ensure they remain healthy throughout their life. Pet rabbits are especially prone to problems with their eyes and teeth, and without care and a proper diet, can develop chronic problems that may become deadly. Our Veterinary Vision Care team wants to ensure your furry pal is in hopping good health through all life stages. We describe a common ocular condition, and how you can prevent this in your pet. 

What is dacryocystitis in rabbits?

Dacryocystitis, or weepy eye, is a common inflammatory condition of the tear ducts in rabbits. Dacryocystitis can occur in one or both eyes, and is often associated with other medical problems, such as conjunctivitis. Rabbits’ tear ducts are long, narrow, and winding, and anatomically close to their nose and teeth. An infection in any part of your rabbit’s eye, sinus, nasal cavity, or mouth can easily spread to their tear ducts. Common causes of dacryocystitis include:

  • Dental disease, including an abscessed tooth or root inflammation
  • Foreign body tear duct blockage (i.e., grass seed, tear sludge, hay)
  • Bacterial infection (i.e., Pasteurella)
  • Tear duct trauma
  • Eyelid wounds
  • Respiratory infections

Dacryocystitis signs in rabbits

Your rabbit’s tear ducts function to drain tears away from their eye surface. If these ducts become blocked or inflamed, their tears can no longer drain to the nasal passages, and will spill over the lower eyelid onto their face. Your veterinarian may refer to this condition as epiphora, which is the abnormal flow of tears from the eyes. Dacryocystitis signs in rabbits will vary based on the underlying cause, and may include:

  • Hiding and decreased socialization
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Matted fur or crusting around the eye
  • Rubbing their eyes with their front feet
  • Swelling under or around the eyes
  • Fur loss around the eyes
  • Tear-stained fur
  • Red, swollen eyes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Painful mouth or face
  • Green, white, grey, or yellow eye discharge 
  • Wet skin around the eyes, or on the face

Dacryocystitis diagnosis and treatment in rabbits

Your rabbit needs veterinary care if you notice any dacryocystitis signs. Your veterinarian will examine your rabbit from their nose to their cute little bunny tail, paying special attention to their mouth and teeth, since dental disease is the most common cause of dacryocystitis in rabbits. Your veterinarian may recommend advanced imaging, such as X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans, to investigate their teeth below the gumline, looking for any abscesses or sinus problems. Additionally, your veterinarian may recommend a bacterial culture of your rabbit’s eye discharge to determine the cause of their infections. Chronic conditions, such as respiratory infections or dental disease, may require regular, long-term treatment, which may include:

  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics 
  • Eye medication 
  • Topical antibiotic ointment for infected skin
  • Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medication to control pain
  • Saline flush of the infected or blocked tear duct
  • Tooth trimming, or filing any elongated teeth

Dacryocystitis prevention in rabbits

Regular visits at least every six months for your veterinarian to check your rabbit’s mouth and teeth, and a proper diet, are vital to avoid this painful condition in your pet. You should check your rabbit’s mouth and teeth weekly to ensure that any problems are addressed quickly. Also, examine your pet for any facial lumps or swelling, and ensure that the skin around their eyes remains clean and dry. Monitor your rabbit’s weight, because weight loss may signal that they are having problems with their mouth. This body condition chart is a useful tool when evaluating your pet’s overall health. Because your rabbit’s teeth grow continuously, ensure they graze for 12 to 14 hours daily, to properly wear down their teeth and remain healthy. A diet of grass or hay, pellets, and dark leafy vegetables is critical for their overall wellness.  

Regular exams with your family veterinarian are critical to avoid dental or respiratory problems that may lead to inflamed or blocked tear ducts in your rabbit. If you have any questions about your rabbit’s eyes, or you suspect dacryocystitis, do not hesitate to call our Veterinary Vision Center office.