Eye Inflammation in Rabbits

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 25, 2008

Anterior Uveitis in Rabbits

The front of the eye is called the uvea — the dark tissue that contains blood vessels. When the uvea becomes inflamed the condition is referred to as anterior uveitis (literally, inflammation of the front of the eye). It is a common condition in rabbits of all ages.

Symptoms and Types

The most common symptom is a change of appearance in the affected eye(s). A physical examination of the rabbit can reveal further symptoms including swelling of the iris, white or pink nodules on the iris, eye related discomfort (such as sensitivity to light), and a red eye. Other less common signs may include fluid buildup in the cornea (corneal edema), and unusually constricted pupils (subtle miosis).


One of the most common causes of iris inflammation is bacterial infection, generally due to the E. cuniculi microorganism. This bacteria can even infect the fetus while still in the womb. Other causes are a corneal ulcer (ulcerative keratitis), which may result due to traumatic injury, conjunctivitis (pink eye), or environmental irritants.

Immunosuppressive disorders, which causes the immune system to not function normally, is another risk factor that may increase a rabbit's chances of developing this condition. This can result from other diseases or even stress.

Anterior uveitis can also be caused by fungal or viral infections.


A variety of diagnostic procedures may be used to diagnose anterior uveitis. An examination of the eyes is recommended, including a tonometry procedure and flourescein stain. Tonometry measures the amount of pressure in the eye. Flourescein staining is a procedure where orange dye and blue light are used to detect foreign bodies as well as damage in the cornea (this can rule out a corneal ulcer).

Additional diagnostic procedures may include CT scans to identify causes such as dental disease, ultrasounds for trauma victims, and laboratory testing for the presence of the E. cuniculi bacteria. Further tests may depend on additional symptoms and the suspected underlying cause of anterior uveitis.


In most mild to moderate cases, the rabbit can be treated at home. However, some severe cases may require hospital care for the animal.

Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Other medications may include topical agents to be applied directly to the eye, and antibiotics to fight bacterial infection.

If E. cuniculi is to blame, certain medications may be prescribed. Or in severe cases, lens removal may be necessary. Note that spontaneous lens regeneration is possible in rabbits.

Living and Management

A complete eye examination should follow five to seven days after treatment. The veterinarian may monitor the intra-eye pressure at the time, as as secondary glaucoma is a risk in cases of anterior uveitis.

After two to three weeks the rabbit will again be reevaluated. During this evaluation time, symptoms will be monitored, medication will be administered regularly, and the rabbit will be encouraged to eat. And regardless of the rabbit's initial response to treatment, it should continue for at least two months.


There is no known way to prevent anterior uveitis. However, some of the condition's causes, such as trauma, may be avoided by keeping pets away from dangerous situations.

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