This is a partial re-blog-re-write from our old blog; this post, along with the one about Natural Ear Mite Treatment, still receives regular traffic and comments (though, admittedly, I have not been moderating them over there).
Weepy Eye is the rabbit version of conjunctivitis (aka: pink eye). Like conjunctivitis in humans, Weepy Eye has many causes including bacteria, allergies, a clogged tear duct, a foreign object in the eye, eye injury, just to name a few. Signs and symptoms of Weepy Eye can include: swelling of the eye’s membranes, increased tear production, colored discharge, and accumulation of exudate and/or crust around the eye. An initial symptom of Weepy Eye is persistently wet fur around the rabbit’s eye. A rabbit that presents with wet front paws for no apparent reason may also be an indicator of the condition, this is due to the fact that the animal will continually wipe its eye to alleviate occlusion and discomfort.
The Rabbit Bible aka: Rabbit Production (Eighth Edition) recommended treatment with Chloramphenicol in an ophthalmic ointment. I have also read that Terramycin opthalmic ointment, which can be purchased at most farm supply stores such as Tractor Supply, is recommended. As we attempt to keep our rabbitry as natural as possible we opt for neither of these but have come up with a natural formula that has never failed us; a combination of Chamomile tea and saline.
Taken internally, generally through drinking as a tea, Chamomile reduces swelling in the stomach and intestine, aids digestion, decreases menstrual and intestinal cramps, relieves gas, and is effective as a gentle laxative, alleviates headache and insomnia. Chamomile tea of mild strength helps with fever, sore throat, nausea and vomiting as well as other aches and pains due to allergies, colds and flu. It is further reported that Chamomile helps sooth the symptoms of colic and teething in babies.
Externally Chamomile is effective as a wash or compress or in a bath to treat skin inflammation, rashes, exzema, sunburn, ulcers, and hemorrhoids; it can also help relax and sooth aching muscles.
*Note: Chamomile should be avoided by those who are known to have ragweed allergies as they belong to the same family.
Saline, a mixture of salt and water, is used to clean wounds, relieve allergies, alleviate congestion from colds, and ease the pain of ear infections.
Saline can be made at home by combining 1 cup warm water, preferably bottled so as to avoid contaminants, and 1 tablespoon non-iodinized salt (sea salt, canning or pickling salt) .
To apply: Dampen a cotton ball, and gently apply to the eye, holding in place for a few moments to help loosen any crusts and make mucus removal easier. Wipe the eye, gently from front to back and dispose of the cotton ball. Repeat this until the eye is open (if it was stuck shut) and free from exudation and/or mucus. Remember to use a fresh cotton ball for each application. Once the eye is clean you can squeeze a bit of the solution (from a clean cotton ball) right into the eye. Check for any foreign objects in the eye as well as for any other type of damage (scratches, cuts etc. which may require more extensive treatment). Our rabbits, including those as young as 14 days, tolerate this procedure extremely well.
We usually repeat the above procedure in the morning and evening until the infection is cleared up; in our experience we have never had to do this for more than 3 days. Remember, Weepy Eye is extremely communicable so you need to wash all supplies as well as your hand thoroughly, in hot soapy water in between after treating an ill rabbit. Once your rabbit is well, ensure that you clean the cage/pen/hutch that it occupied during its infirmity as well as all dishes it used.
*Note: Certain, individual rabbits seem to be predisposed to recurrent bouts of Weepy Eye, and although it may be resolved for a time it returns weeks or moths later, so keep a close watch on any rabbit that has had Weepy Eye in the past. Recurrent Weepy Eye may be a sign of an underlying illness such as Snuffles, if an adult rabbit continues to get the condition you should consider other possible problems.