Why Do Rabbits Have Red Eyes

Why Do Rabbits Have Red Eyes? Rabbit Guide 2024

A rabbit with red eyes may look like a little demon bunny, and that’s enough to get you wondering whether red eyes for rabbits are normal or something to seriously worry about. 

So why do rabbits have red eyes? 

Rabbits can have red eyes for two reasons. Rabbits have red eyes because their body doesn’t have enough melanin pigments and so red eyes are due to the blood vessels being exposed. This is called albinism. Rabbits can also have red eyes when they have an eye infection.     

Should you worry if your rabbit has an eye infection, and is vet treatment necessary? And what about albinism? Is this normal or rare? 

We’ve got answers to all your rabbit red eyes questions, so keep on reading! 

Do Rabbits Have Red Eyes?

Some rabbits have red eyes. This is due to albinism, and while rare, these red eyes are natural. 

If a non-albino rabbit has red eyes, the bun has an eye infection and you should seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible. Red eyes from an eye infection aren’t normal, and it’s a painful medical condition.

What Does It Mean If a Rabbit Has Red Eyes?

What Does It Mean If a Rabbit Has Red Eyes

If your rabbit has red eyes, it means they are an albino rabbit or they have an eye infection. 

Rabbit Albinism 

Albino rabbits have red eyes and white fur. These rabbits don’t have melanin pigmentation in their eyes and fur. 

The lack of melanin is due to a genetic mutation; however, Florida White rabbits are specifically bred to be albino bunnies.  

Technically, an albino rabbit’s eyes aren’t red. The red color in an albino rabbit’s eyes is how light reflects on their irises and you essentially see the blood vessels in the eye. Hence, red eyes.  

So are there any rabbit breeds that are more prone to albinism? 

Florida White rabbits are the only rabbit breed that will always have pure white fur and red eyes. 

Californian and Himalayan rabbits have an albino gene – they have white fur and red eyes; however, you’ll also see dark markings on their body (their nose, ears, tail, and feet). These rabbits have a specific gene that stops the albino gene from completely taking over. 

While the albino gene is a recessive gene, any rabbit breed can produce albino rabbits. Other rabbit breeds that are prone to albinism are: 

  • Flemish Giant 
  • Britannia Pettite 
  • Holland Lop 
  • Angora 
  • Jersey Wooly 
  • Mini Lop 
  • New Zealand 
  • Polish 
  • Netherland Dwarf 
  • Rex 
  • Satin 
  • Lionhead 

Do you think that albino bunnies are less healthy than their non-albino cousins? 

You’d be wrong. Albino rabbits and non-albino rabbits can be equally healthy. Albinism only affects their cells’ pigments and makes them more sensitive to light and sunburn.

An Eye Infection 

Your rabbit’s eyes can also be red when they have an eye infection (it’s the swelling that causes the eyes to turn red as blood vessels become more prominent due to a lack of circulation). 

It’s easy to note an eye infection in non-albino rabbits, so make sure you look out for the other symptoms that accompany an eye infection if you have a Florida White or albino bunny. 

There are various causes and symptoms of eye infections in rabbits. (We look at this in detail in the next sections.) 

When your rabbit has an eye infection, take them to your local vet. Untreated eye infections can cause permanent damage and other health complications if left untreated.

Symptoms of Red Eye in Rabbits

There are a variety of symptoms your rabbit can exhibit when they have an eye infection. 

The kind of symptoms depends on the underlying cause. 

For example, if your bun has red eyes because of a dental disorder, you’ll see signs of dental disease or tooth decay. 

General symptoms of an eye infection are: 

  • Swollen eyelids 
  • Eye discharge 
  • An impaired vision so your bun will look clumsy 
  • Extra tissue around their eyes 
  • Nasal discharge 
  • Upper respiratory infection or a cold (noisy breathing)  
  • Tear staining and hair loss around the eyes, cheeks, and nose 
  • Depression 
  • Lethargy 

Causes of Red Eye in Rabbits

There are a variety of causes of red eye infections: 

  • Conjunctivitis – when the conjunctiva is inflamed and infected; caused by a fungal, viral, or bacterial infection, trauma, allergies, or a respiratory tract infection  
  • Dental diseases – which can result in facial swelling, tear duct blockage, inflammation, and an eye discharge 
  • Dacryocystitis – when the lacrimal sac is infected; caused by dental diseases 
  • Glaucoma – results in blindness and a cloudy white cornea; caused by intraocular pressure 
  • Corneal ulcers – when there is an open sore on the cornea; caused by various ophthalmic issues 
  • Keratitis – when the cornea is inflamed; caused by trauma to the eye or a fungal infection  

Other causes of eye infections are: 

  • Allergies 
  • Overgrown teeth (before it gets to a dental disease stage) 
  • Bacterial or fungal infections like rabbit syphilis (treponema cuniculi) or E. cuniculi  
  • Trauma 

Treatment for Red Eye in Rabbits 

When you suspect your rabbit has an eye infection because you see their eyes are red and notice other symptoms, take them to the vet as soon as you can. 

Once the vet has a diagnosis, treatment will be prescribed. 

The vet makes a diagnosis by performing a full clinical examination of your bunny, including a full ophthalmologic exam to look at your rabbit’s eyes. 

They will look at the retina, eyelids, lacrimal ducts, cornea, conjunctiva, and other eye structures. 

If needed, they’ll perform further examinations like: 

  • Tonometry (to check the internal eye pressure) 
  • Swabs
  • Fluorescein dye (to see if there are scratches and corneal ulcers) 
  • Nasolacrimal cannulation (to examine the tear ducts)
  • A Dacryocystrophinagraphy (to see if there’s an obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct)      

Treatments for the eye infection depend on what caused your rabbit to have red eyes. But in general, treatment may include: 

  • Topical medication like broad-spectrum ophthalmic antibiotics and pain relief medication
  • Systemic treatment like systemic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and systemic antibiotic therapy 
  • Hospitalization where sedation is needed (flushing the nasolacrimal duct or surgery) 

Can Rabbits With Red Eyes See?

Albino rabbits can see; however, they have poor eyesight (compared to their non-albino cousins). 

If your rabbit has red eyes and is an albino, you’ll notice that they need more time to scan their environment (slowly moving their head from side to side, called parallax or scanning). Once the bun has scanned its environment, it’ll move. 

Albino rabbits have fewer rods in their eyes than other rabbits. This means that your albino bun also can’t see as well in low-light conditions (dusk and dawn) as other rabbits.   

These bunnies are also extra sensitive to light. More light enters their eyes because they don’t have an iris. 

If you take your albino bun outside, you’ll see them squinting. 

A rabbit care tip: Don’t take your red-eyed rabbit outside when there’s full sunlight as it’s uncomfortable and painful for these buns. It’s the same with brightly lit rooms inside your house. 

If you do need to take your albino bunny outside in bright sunlight, ensure they have a hiding spot nearby. So if your bun feels uncomfortable in the light, they have a safe space.

Are Rabbits With Red Eyes Rare?

Rabbits with red eyes (aka albino rabbits) are not commonly found in the wild; however, pet albino bunnies are more common.  

The reason wild albino rabbits are rare is that predators can spot a bright white rabbit much easier than one whose fur coat blends in with the environment. The odd one out is the Snowshoe rabbit, whose white coat is required to conceal it from predators in the snowy landscape of the far northern areas like Canada and the Arctic. 

If an albino rabbit is born in the wild, they spend most of its time hiding in the underground burrows where rabbits normally live and sleep. They’ll only go out at dusk and dawn to exercise and eat.

But albino rabbits generally don’t live long in the wild.  

My Last Bunny Thoughts 

Rabbits with red eyes are not little evil red-eyed demons. The red eyes are caused by a lack of melanin or an eye infection. 

If you have a Florida White rabbit or an albino rabbit from another breed, they deserve just as much love and attention as non-albino rabbits. In fact, these albino buns are friendlier than their non-albino cousins and make good pets. 

And if your rabbit – albino or not – has an eye infection, remember to take them to the vet ASAP so they can get treatment.

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