WATERY EYES IN RABBITS (Epiphora)
1. What causes epiphora in rabbits?
The most common reason rabbits develop epiphora is due to blockage of the nasolacrimal duct (a passage through which tears pass from the eyes to the nose). This may occur if there is an infection in or around the duct, or when dental disease is present. Other causes of epiphora include eye infections (usually bacterial), irritation to the eye as a result of a foreign body (e.g. dirt or grass seed) or trauma to the eye.
2. What are the signs of epiphora in rabbits?
Discharge may be present in one or both eyes and the fur around the eye may become sticky and discoloured. The discharge can vary from clear and watery to yellow and thick. The skin around the eye may also become reddened and moist. In some cases your rabbit may squint or have a reddened sclera (white portion of the eye).
3. How does dental disease cause watery eyes?
The nasolacrimal duct is quite narrow in rabbits and runs close to the roots of the upper teeth. When dental disease is present, the tooth roots can change shape and block the duct, preventing normal drainage of fluid to the nose.
4. How is the cause of epiphora determined?
An examination of the oral cavity is very important to determine if dental disease is the cause of the epiphora. Radiographs are often required to investigate problems with the tooth roots, sinuses or the nasolacrimal duct. A fluorescein stain is used to find any ulcers or trauma-related injuries to the eyeball itself and to determine if the duct is completely or only partially blocked.
5. How is epiphora treated?
Treatment of any primary dental disease is crucial, and may require surgery and/or a long term course of injectable and oral antibiotics. Eye drops can sometimes be used to assist with unblocking the duct and treating eye infections. Flushing of the nasolacrimal duct under general anaesthetic may also be recommended by your vet and in some cases surgery may be required. Reoccurrence however is common and regular ocular (eye) and dental check-ups are recommended.
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