5 month old Netherland Dwarf went blind and may be ill?

by Lynda B
(Anchorage, Alaska)

I adopted a <4 month old Netherland Dwarf and when I got him he was in perfect health. He used to run around, jump up on the couch, veg out on the floor, everything a normal house bunny enjoys. He had a brother with him but they began to fight so I had to rehome his brother. About two weeks later I noticed he wasn't as active, and one of his eyes was cloudy. Within another week and a half both of his eyes were opaque and he was unresponsive to movement near his eyes.

He is now about 6 months old, completely blind, and appears to have other health issues. He seems skinny, but eats, poops, and drinks just fine. He also keeps his eyes shut 95% of the time (they aren't red or irritated looking, but are a bit weepy). He no longer comes out of his cage, and if I bring him out he tries to get right back in. Lastly his balance has substantially deteriorated; when he stands on his hind legs, he falls over, and when he walks he sways.

I keep his cage clean, he is on a diet of timothy hay, a mix rabbit food blend with all the proper nutrients, and gets two yogurt treats a day. He also has a salt wheel and fresh water 24/7. This is not my first rabbit, but I've never had a sick or special needs bun before. I have been careful not to move things around so he isn't confused.

Could these problems solely be caused by his being blind? Or is there a genetic disease that could be causing it? I also thought he could be depressed because of my having to rehome his brother. Any info or help would really be appreciated. Vets in Alaska are outrageously expensive and I want to take him, but I don't want to be given the runaround.

***** Karen Sez *****
Thanks for sharing Lynda. So sorry for the difficulties. You of course needed to rehome the brother - two bucks can rarely cohabit without fighting.

From your descriptions (and I'm NOT a vet), it sounds like your bunny is very sick. The blindness is due to corneal scarring from an eye infection. The loss of balance is also from an infection in the inner ear. The most likely culprit for both infections is pasteurella multocida, although staph can infect and scar the eyes, and nosema can disrupt balance. Either way, these are very grave problems.

What to do? I don't advocate medicating pasteurella, because talk about a runaround - it will just come back when the medicine runs out, and there is no known cure. BUT: there's no diagnosis as yet.

I might allow my vet to check the rabbit, offer an opinion, and even write a prescription. If the rabbit gets better, perhaps the problem was not pasteurella, and you'll have your rabbit back. If it gets sick all over again when the course of medication is over, you might then assume the prognosis for your rabbit's long term health is very poor, and take measures appropriate to your choices.

If worse comes to worse, I hope you'll not be afraid to get another bunny after you've disinfected well all of the bunny's prior living spaces.

Good luck!

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Jun 14, 2013
Cloudy Eye Treatment
by: Anonymous

Chlorpramine is the eye cream usually given to people and other mammals for eye infections. The people dose is 10% and small rodents 5%. I've found the 10% people dose works good in small rodents and the eyes get better much faster (3 day versus 5-7 days).

Whenever a bunny's eye gets red, lots of tears, or cloudy, I apply cream to the eye, close the lid gently with my fingers, and then use a cotton swab to wipe any excess off the bunny's fur.

Eye infections are usually conjunctivitis, which leads to complete blindness, so treat it when you first notice the symptoms. The medication is cheap, so always have it on hand.

Sorry about your bunny, however, waiting more than a few hours when you have a pet rodent is unwise. So, next time, take action right away.

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