Eye problems in rabbits are quite common. Tears quickly wash out any treatment put in the eye so eye drops need to be given several times a day. This means you will have to learn how to give the treatment at home.
Some drops only need to be given once a day, others up to six times daily. Always follow the instructions given to you by your vet very carefully. Never give more than the recommended dose and, if at all possible, try not to miss treatments.
You will find it easier to hold your rabbit at a comfortable working height. Try placing your rabbit on a table or raised surface. If the surface is slippery, put a carpet tile or towel down so that your rabbit feels more secure. If your rabbit struggles a lot, you may need to wrap your rabbit in a towel or blanket to prevent them scratching you. You will need to get a friend to help you – one of you will hold the rabbit whilst the other steadies the head and puts the drops into the eye.
The person holding the rabbit should grip the rabbits head firmly under the chin and tilt the head upwards. The other person holds the dropper bottle in one hand and opens the rabbits eye using the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. Position the dropper bottle a few centimetres above the eye and squeeze gently to release the right number of drops. Avoid touching the eye with the bottle spout.
Ointments and creams are slightly more difficult to apply because they are thick like toothpaste. Hold the rabbit and open its eye as above. Holding the tube of ointment above the eye, squeeze out some ointment and let it drop onto the eye to lie between the lids. Detach this ‘worm’ of ointment from the tube by pulling the ointment down against the lower lid. Always avoid touching the eye with the nozzle.
As long as the treatment falls on the eye somewhere it does not matter where. When your rabbit blinks the drug will spread all over the surface of the eye.
The eye is one of the most sensitive parts of the body and putting anything into an eye may cause discomfort. However, eye drops and ointments are designed for use in the eye and any discomfort will be slight. Your rabbit may blink a lot or have a ‘watery eye’ for a few moments after you have put the drops in. On rare occasions your rabbit may paw at the eye(s), rub its face along the floor or the white of the eye becomes red and sore. If so, stop the treatment immediately and contact your vet.
Always continue the treatment for as long as your vet recommends. Eye problems often appear to get better very quickly once treatment starts but if you stop treatment too soon the problems may come back.
Most owners get quite good at giving eye drops with a bit of practice, but if you really can’t do it yourself tell your vet. He may be able to prescribe a different drug which does not need to be given so often or which can be given by mouth instead. In some cases a nurse may be able to help you, or your rabbit could be taken into the hospital for a few days to be given treatment.