Bubbles is a 3-year-old female Netherlands dwarf rabbit with an eye problem. It is her left eye and it has been draining, according her caretaker Cory, for at least three weeks. The material draining from Bubbles’ eye is sometimes milky and sometimes clear like tears.
Stating the obvious, take Bubbles to her veterinarian. Perhaps Cory has already done so, but here are a few thoughts as to what might be the problem.
First, it could be a problem with the eye itself. Perhaps she has a scratch on her cornea. This is painful and causes excess tearing and can lead to an infection in the eye. This might explain the milky color to the discharge. This can be diagnosed by doing a procedure where a drop of stain is placed in the eye and then illuminated with an ultraviolet light. If the cornea has been scored, the stain will highlight the scored area. I also advise swabbing some of the material from the eye and checking it for bacteria under a microscope. Corneal wounds, depending on the severity, generally respond well to topical treatment with an antibacterial eye ointment.
Another possibility might be an infection of the conjunctiva of the eye. This is a lining of tissue that covers part of the eye itself as well as the tissue on the inside of the eyelid. When it becomes inflamed, usually from a bacterial infection, it will cause a discharge. This is called bacterial conjunctivitis and usually responds well to topical treatment with an ophthalmic antibacterial ointment or drop.
A third possibility is a plugging of Bubbles’ nasolacrimal duct, the small tube that drains tears produced in the eye down into the nose. If this duct becomes occluded, either partially or completely, the tears that are normally drained into the nose have nowhere else to go other than to drain from the eye socket. If left plugged for some period of time, a condition know as dacriocystitis can develop. This involves infection with bacteria within the nasolacrimal duct. These rabbits will have discharge from the eye, often milky. I believe this is what is occurring in Bubbles. To remedy this, the patient must be anesthetized and the nasolacrimal duct unblocked using a small cannula to flush out the obstruction with saline solution. It sometimes can be difficult to relieve the obstruction in rabbits. This can be because of a tooth root issue, an abscess usually, which causes the obstruction. These cases are more complicated and require dental radiographs and possibly a tooth extraction.
Hopefully, Bubbles already has been to her veterinarian and has been diagnosed and is well on the way to recovery. As is always the case, and especially so when eyes are involved, it is best to address the problem as soon as it is discovered.
Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif.