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Home > Rabbits > How To Clean a Rabbit’s Eyes: 5 Vet-Approved Steps

How To Clean a Rabbit’s Eyes: 5 Vet-Approved Steps

vet cleaning a rabbit's eye

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Dr. Tabitha Henson

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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A rabbit’s large, round eyes give it a full perspective of the world and help it spot predators from far away. Rabbits are farsighted, and while they can see behind them, their night vision is less developed than nocturnal animals like cats. Rabbits are prone to eye problems, but you can ensure your pet stays healthy by visiting the veterinarian periodically and cleaning the animal’s eyes at home. We’ll show you how to clean your rabbit’s eyes and discuss some of the most common eye problems experienced by rabbits.


The 5 Steps to Clean a Rabbit’s Eyes

If your pet has red eyes or frequently paws at its face, immediately take the rabbit to the doctor. When it’s already infected, cleaning its eye can cause pain and irritation, and the veterinarian will show you how to clean the eyes after they’re treated. After a full examination, the doctor may perform several tests, including the Schirmer tear test, tonometry, cytologic exams, and fluorescein stains, to determine why the redness occurred. If your pet’s eyes look normal, you can continue to clean its eyes.

1. Ask a Friend To Assist

Some rabbits may be calm enough to sit still for you, but it’s safer to have an assistant when you’re handling something as sensitive as the eyes. A friend who knows the rabbit and is accustomed to holding it is an ideal partner, but you can show someone unfamiliar with your pet how to hold the animal correctly.

hands holding a rabbit
Image Credit: MorningbirdPhoto, Pixabay

2. Place a Towel On a Clean Table

Place your rabbit on a table or elevated structure that allows you to clean the eyes without bending over. If the animal becomes anxious and tries to run, it can slip on a slick table and injure itself. Place a towel on the table to prevent a slip and provide a more comfortable surface for the rabbit’s feet. Your partner should gently hold the rabbit with one hand under its chin and another hand holding its body when you’re ready to clean the eyes.

3. Wrap a Towel Around the Rabbit If It’s Uncomfortable

Some rabbits, like cats, start squirming when you try to clean or groom them. Use a towel to wrap around the animal so it will not move around when you’re cleaning its eyes. If the creature is agitated and will not sit still, leave it alone and try again when it’s more relaxed.

English Lop rabbit
Image Credit: Krit Akaravanich, Shutterstock

4. Use a Soft Towel Moistened with Warm Water

Have your assistant raise the rabbit’s face upward and use a moistened towel to remove dirt and debris near the eyes. If a prior discharge has left a strip of dried material near the tear ducts, place a towel dipped in warm water on the dried material to loosen it up before wiping it away.

5. Apply Saline Drops If Necessary

Dirt or small pieces of hay can irritate the rabbit’s eyes, but you can flush them out with a saline solution. While your partner keeps the rabbit’s head upward, use one hand to hold the eye open with your forefinger and thumb carefully. Then, hold the dropper near the eyes and release the drops. Avoid hitting the eyeball with the dropper or squeezing the dropper too hard.

Rabbit Pee on the Litter Box
Image By: KanphotoSS, Shutterstock


Common Cause of a Rabbit’s Eye Problems

Unlike other medical issues with rabbits, eye problems are usually easier for owners to identify. Symptoms of an eye infection can include redness, pain, inflammation, and appetite loss.

Congenial Issues

Dwarf rabbits and those with short faces are born with unusually narrow tear ducts. Rabbits with abnormal tear ducts are more vulnerable to chronic tearing.

Dental Infections

A dental infection is a common reason for eye problems because the rabbit’s open-rooted molars are located beneath the tear ducts. The incisors and molars continue to grow throughout the animal’s life, and any infected tooth can put pressure on the tear duct and lead to an obstruction.

If the veterinarian removes the tooth, the tearing symptoms may stop, but the rabbit may have to live with weeping eyes if scarring has occurred in the tear duct. Carefully removing the discharge with a soft, moistened towel and cleaning the rabbit’s face every day will reduce the chances of further problems.

rabbit lying on the carpet
Image By: ZouZou, Shutterstock

Sinus Abscesses

An abscess that develops in the bone around the tear duct, eye, or sinus can narrow the ducts. An injury or trauma from surgery can also cause a blockage that leads to weeping eyes.


Dacryocystitis is a weeping eye condition that results in a white, mucous-like discharge. It can be caused by several factors, including eyelid wounds, respiratory infections, bacterial infections, dental disease, and tear duct blockage from a foreign body. Dacryocystitis requires immediate veterinary help to prevent further damage to the eyes. Possible treatments for the conditions include antibiotics, eye medications, saline flushes, antibiotic medication, and anti-inflammatory drugs.


Like people, rabbits can get pink eye or conjunctivitis. The disease begins as a minor infection but can progress rapidly without proper veterinary treatment. Failure to treat the disease can result in vision loss and an infection that spreads to the brain.


Critical First Aid Supplies for Your Pet Rabbit

Although a veterinarian should treat your rabbit for any troubling symptoms, it’s good to have a first aid kit filled with items that can help your pet in an emergency. Rabbit experts are not as readily available as doctors who treat dogs and cats, and your pet may have to make a long journey with you to the nearest clinic. Keeping these supplies on hand will ensure your pet is more comfortable if it makes an emergency trip.

Saline Wash

Flushing the rabbit’s eye with saline can remove a foreign object and clear the discharge from the ducts.

Pet Carrier

Place a towel in the carrier to prevent your rabbit from sliding around, and keep it buckled in during the car trip.

Rabbit Shredding
Image Credit: Wanwajee Weeraphukdee, Shutterstock

Feeding Syringe

Some rabbits struggle with eating when suffering from medical issues such as dental issues or gastrointestinal problems. When rabbits stop eating, the healthy GI bacteria are replaced by bacteria that cause excessive gas. Feeding the rabbit with an herbivore formula through a feeding syringe may be the only way to reestablish healthy bacteria levels in the GI tract.

Antiseptic Solution

Rabbits have thin skin that easily tears, but you can treat minor wounds with a veterinary-prescribed antiseptic solution. A large puncture or gash can only be treated by a doctor.

Styptic Powder

A broken toenail can lead to bleeding, but you can stop the blood loss by using styptic powder or a styptic stick. After the chemical clots the blood, it must be gently washed off to keep the rabbit from licking it.

Portable Fan

Rabbits are vulnerable to overheating, and it’s helpful to have a portable fan to keep your pet cool on long car rides or prevent overheating when your air conditioner malfunctions.


Final Thoughts

Checking your rabbit’s eyes for redness daily, cleaning around them to remove dirt and debris, and using a saline wash to remove foreign particles can prevent complications and possible infections. Rabbits are skilled groomers, but they need a lot of help from their pet parents to stay healthy. Eye infections can be excruciating and detrimental to the animal’s overall health, but your veterinarian can provide effective treatments and advise on treating an illness at home.

Featured Image Credit: SritanaN, Shutterstock

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