Rabbits/cataract

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Question
Dear Dana,

I have a rabbit who will be 7 years old next month. She never had any health issue. Almost a month ago, she brutally went into GI stasis. I immediately treated her and she perked up quickly. I took her to the vet to determine any underlying condition and he found nothing, saying she was in a stellar state for her age and probably just had slower guts due to her getting old - she even gained 50g since the last time she was weighted! But she seemed not to eat from the hayrack anymore and did act a bit weird and a few days ago I suddenly realised that she actually didn't see (much or at all).
Looking at photos, her eyes look a lot like they are affected by cataract: her pupils are both completely uniformely greyish, it's only noticeable when you look at them closely - the iris and white part of the eyes are normal looking to me.
I'm taking her to the vet on Tuesday but I'm living in a small city and I don't trust him that much (he does basic ophtalmologic exams, like mesuring pressure in the eyes and stuff, but I doubt he does it for rabbits very often).
What I want to know is : how likely is it that it's e cuniculi related? The possibility really scares me.
Should I ask the vet to check something else than looking at the pupils and mesuring the pressure in the eyes to rule out glaucoma?
If it's just "normal" cataract due to poor genes and age, should I ask for eyewash or anything to avoid uveitis or something? What are the odds that it will degenerate into something more severe?

I've read every article I could find on rabbits' eyes problems and most of them were pretty alarming and not very clear about the warning signs concerning a serious problem.

Thank you in advance for your time,

Maya

Answer
Dear Maya,

E. cuniculi produces very characteristic cataracts that an experienced vet will recognize.  But there are many other possible causes of cataracts that could be at work here.  I would recommend you get your bunny to a certified veterinary ophthalmologist to be sure what is going on here, and to be sure that these are even cataracts.

The sudden GI stasis is worrisome, and it suggests to me that there could be two things going on here, possibly related:  dental problems and eye problems.  Severe dental disease can sometimes affect the eyes.  For example, if a tooth root has intruded too far into the skull (as sometimes happens in middle-aged bunnies like yours) it could perforate the eye orbit and/or eye itself, causing intraocular infection.  For an overview of dental problems in rabbits, please see:

http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/dental.html

and

http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Dental_diseases/Differential/D_problems1.htm

I do think it would be wise to have a complete ophthalmologic exam, as some eye disorders (e.g., uveitis) can cause enough pain to trigger GI stasis.  The vet should also check for glaucoma and general eye health.  During the exam, the veterinary ophthalmologist may also be able to tell if there is a dental basis for your bunny's eye problems, and whether it is treatable.

I hope this helps.

Dana  

Rabbits

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

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:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet 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.

Experience

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.

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

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

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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