Cataracts In Rabbits Explained

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 21 seconds

Most people know about a condition called red eye in rabbits but another problem they suffer from which affects their vision is cloudy eye. This is a condition where cataracts start to form over one or both of a rabbit's eyes. The opaque film may cover the entire lens or just part of it, causing the eye to look cloudy. You might think that only older rabbits would suffer from cataracts, however, in most cases rabbits are born with the condition because it can be congenital.

Symptoms and Signs Your Rabbit May have Cataracts

If you notice that your pet's eyes are a bit cloudy and you are at all worried about the situation, the best course of action is to make an appointment with the vet. They would be able to look at your rabbit's eyes and confirm whether cataracts are developing on their eyes or not. Signs and symptoms to watch out for that there may be a problem include the following:

  • One or both lenses are partially or fully opaque
  • There is a discharge coming from one or both of your pet's eyes
  • There could be a swelling of the iris
  • You may notice white nodule looking bumps on the iris

The Different Types of Cataracts

There are three types of cataract which are as follows:

  • Immature cataract – this is when the lens on one or both of your pet's eyes are partially covered
  • Mature cataract – this is when the entire lens of one or two of your pet's eyes are covered
  • Hyper-mature cataract – this is when the lens of one or two of a rabbit's eyes have changed shaped – otherwise known as lens liquefaction

What Causes Cataracts?

Rabbits are commonly born with cataracts although, they may develop for no apparent reason as they grow older. However, when a cataract does develop it is more usually due to some sort of bacterial infection and more commonly one called encephalitozoon cuniculi. Other reasons why a rabbit may develop cataracts include them being fed the wrong kind of diet or because they suffer increased levels of glucose in their blood.

If a rabbit's diet is nutritionally deficient and lacking in essential vitamins and minerals rabbits need to stay healthy, it increases the chances of them developing cataracts. However, where it gets a bit confusing for both pet owners and vets, is when a cataract suddenly develops on one or both of a rabbit's eyes for no apparent reason.

Diagnosing the Condition

As previously mentioned, a cataract may develop for no apparent reason so suddenly an eye appears opaque which is cause for concern. A vet would need to carry out certain tests to find out if there are any bacteria present which could have triggered the condition. They would also want to do an urinalysis and carry out some blood tests to see if your rabbit is suffering from some sort of infectious disease before establishing a correct diagnosis.

In some instances, a rabbit may have a white mass coming out of their eye which is a sure sign that a cataract is developing. However, your pet could be suffering from other conditions which affect their eyes and which can be confused as being a cataract which includes the following:

  • An abscess may be forming in an eye
  • There's an abnormal growth of cells in the eye – known as neoplasia
  • A tumour may be forming in the eye

Treating Cataracts in Rabbits

In order to treat a cataract whether it's congenital or spontaneous, vets would need to surgically remove it and the earlier this procedure is done the better the outcome. There are several medications that may be prescribed by a vet which would help treat cataracts which have been triggered by a bacterial infection so it really does depend on the root cause of the condition to how a vet would want to treat it.

Living and Managing a Rabbit with Cataracts

Once a rabbit has undergone treatment, their condition has to be carefully monitored to ensure a cataract does not reoccur. There are a few complications associated with the condition which you would need to be aware of which includes the following:

  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal detachment

Should the vet have recommended surgically removing a cataract, the prognosis is normally very good. However, all too often surgically removing cataracts is not an option and as such the outcome of an affected eye is not always so good and rabbits tend to suffer from glaucoma in the damaged eye.

Preventing the Condition From Happening

Unfortunately, there is not specific way of preventing cataracts from developing. This is due to the fact that in most cases the condition is congenital or because they form for no apparent reason which means they are considered as a "spontaneous" condition. However, if you notice that one or both of your rabbit's eyes appear cloudy, you should get them to the vet who would be able to carry out a few tests in order to determine whether there's a bacterial infection going on or if the cause is something else that would also require a specific treatment.


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