You are here:

Rabbits/Eastern Cottontails


ECT eye
ECT eye  

ECT eye
ECT eye  
Hello Dr. Krempels,
I am a CVT that works at an emergency wildlife hospital and rehab facility in Sanibel FL. I am the one that raises the Eastern Cottontails. We try to educate the public about keeping them in the nest, but they don't always listen. I have encountered an odd thing with some of my baby bunnies.  I have them on supportive fluids upon intake and then Fox Valley ECT formula. They receive TMS for predator attacks or Baytril if their wounds are worse. Not every ECT has been on antibiotics that had this phenomenon happen. The 6 ECTs this has happened to have come in from 32-70 grams. 4 of the 6 ended up with diarrhea. Their weight starts to go up initially and then it starts to go down a couple grams, then maybe up a gram or so then back down. I have had 4 siblings where 3 were released at 120 grams and one of the 4 never got above 83 grams. Then after they start to lose weight they start to form what looks like cataracts, and they become completely blind. It looks like horizontal slits like goat eyes. Have you ever heard of this? Also like most cottontail rehabers they have issues with diarrhea and once ours get it they seem to die from it. With supportive fluids BID or sometimes TID and antibiotics. Have you ever been able to turn diarrhea around? I thank you for your time and look forward to talking to you.

Hi, Missy

Yay for you and your work with C.R.O.W.!

The photos of the cataracts are really bizarre.  Did those babies make it?  If you do have one of these little ones with such cataracts and it dies, I would suggest you have a necropsy done on the eye by a veterinary ophthalmologist, if you have one in Fort Myers or Naples.  We have some excellent ones here in Miami, and perhaps this could be coordinated.  The shape of the lesion is really odd, and I really would like to know whether this is a cataract or intra-ocular abscess.

I have a friend who's a rabbit rescuer in Missouri, and I think two cottie babies she raised got the cataracts you described.  They survived, but were deemed unreleasable because of their disability, so she let them live in her house.  They lived 10 years, and thrived.  So the blindness is apparently not necessarily associated with something irreversible and deadly.  I will ask her if they seemed to regain vision, because I seem to recall that they did.

I wonder if you might try using an antibiotic other than TMS.  Is it possible that this particular antibiotic is causing something odd with the visual system development?  We have seen no problems with fluoroquinolones.  For cat attacks, we always administer dual-acting Penicillin-G/Benzathine, (injection only, of course) as it is excellent against the nasty things cats harbor, and doesn't have the potential adverse effects on cartilage development as the fluoroquinolones (Baytril, cipro, Orbax).  (We've never seen any cartilage problems in the babies we've given fluoroquinolones, by the way.)

The diarrhea problem is a bad one with all baby cotties, but I have had some success with this protocol:

It's aggressive, but's load them up with the pharmacy and hope, or just watch them die.  This past week I had a baby with very wet diarrhea.  He had never been fed, as far as I could tell, so never even had colostrum before he got formula from me.  At the onset of the diarrhea, I gave him Orbax instead of ciprofloxacin, and the results were dramatic:  by the next morning, the diarrhea had stopped.  Also gave him colostrum, but waited about 45 minutes after the Orbax so that the calcium in the dairy would not interfere with its absorption.

The baby was still bloaty, even after the diarrhea has stopped, but simethicone helped with that.  And then--as luck would have it--my wonderful foster cottontail, Shucks, showed up all booby (The nests in our back yard are almost instantly raided by rats, despite our efforts to camouflage them with peppermint oil and our constant battle against the rats; she had probably lost a litter and wanted to be nursed.). We were able to get the baby a really good meal of Real Live Cottontail Milk.  By the next day, he was back to normal, and is doing well, now that Shucks is on the job.

I will put out feelers with other rehabbers I know to find out if they ever see the type of cataracts you're seeing.  Is it okay with you if I share your photos with them?  This is such a strange thing that I really think we need to find out what's going on here.

Again, thanks for all you do.  You are a hero!

I hope some of this helps.  If you want to get faster answers, please feel free to email me at

Good luck with those babies.   Cottontails are special little souls.



All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

©2016 All rights reserved.