Friday, December 16, 2011

My rabbit is wearing a contact lens. No - seriously.

When I have problems with my rabbits, I never talk about it here until I'm less stressed. I am just not into the sympathy, but rather want to add to the searchable knowledge database.


A couple of years ago my rabbit Saffron was diagnosed with genetic glaucoma. Which really sucked. You see, we'd already been through the glaucoma route with Jane Doe. She's a stray that showed up on our doorstep.

Soon after taking Jane in - she started having a problem with an eye. We took her in and found she had an ulcer. After treating her for a while, the eye specialist told us we should consider just taking the eye. At the time I was really afraid to do it. My general feeling was - I am going to save this eye. The ulcer was successfully treated, but her eye had already developed glaucoma.

After about three years the medication stopped keeping the pressure down and the eye decided it wanted to leave on the 4th of July. Resulting in an emergency removal.

When Saffron was diagnosed, we decided we were going to take the eyes right away. From everything the eye specialists told us, we could keep the pressure down for a while - but positively those eyes would have to go some day. At this point we'd actually had four different doctors tell us this. So we just wanted to rip off the band aid. If the eyes needed to go - they needed to go. Now, later....what did it matter?

Despite this, we couldn't get a doctor to take a seeing eye. And, the awesome thing about genetic glaucoma (said in the most sarcastic way) is the eyes advance at different rates. The second eye didn't go until a year or more after the first. Potentially the one eye can be super fucked up, and the other might still have sight. So you have to go through two surgeries or wait till both are relatively blind.

Skip forward to earlier this week. We went to dose Saffron and her good-ish eye was completely wet from discharge. This was a rapid change from even the night before. We take her into bed every night for snuggles. So it wasn't something we had just missed before. Rabbits have almost no tear production. Which is why glaucoma is such a problem for rabbits. The compromised eye is prone to ulceration. Which is why we didn't opt for laser surgery for they eye. Yes. Laser surgery.

When the discharge didn't stop we resigned ourselves to it "being time". I was super stressed about the two holidays I had to get through and I'm going to be out of town at the beginning of the year. I didn't want to have to put her through a middle of the night emergency visit. Plus, emergency has to keep your pet for two days. That is super stressful for a rabbit. Especially those as coddled as mine.

So I booked an enucleation appointment. She was still discharge-ey, but it wasn't an emergency. If there was any sight - it was in the one spitting out discharge.

I get to the eye specialist and she tells me sometimes glaucoma in rabbits will burn themselves out. Which I had never heard or read before. She was the 5th doctor I seen specifically for this problem. And let me point out - would have been really helpful to know many years ago. Removing both eyes is psychologically messed up. It is one thing for your pet to go blind, but to actually go through the process of removal is rough. Super stressful. Having said that - with Jane we wished we had removed her eye a little sooner.

Honestly, I'd been preparing myself for this moment for years. It isn't that they look all that different. It was just the image of her face all shaved and filled with stitches that would just grind at my gut.

Still, this specialist did not recommend removal at this time. Not only that - she gave me a 75% chance that Saffron could live the rest of her life without having them removed. I wouldn't give a rabbit a 75% chance of anything. Life is very uncertain with rabbits obviously. But those are pretty good odds.

At first I was pretty skeptical - but both of Saffrons eyes reported pressure readings of only 4. A normal eye is 10, and an eye that had to be removed right away has a pressure of 40. Saffrons pressure was less than a normal eye. Meaning that she wasn't experiencing any pain.

She does have a slight ulceration on the cornea. I guess the glaucoma can cause calcium deposits that cause this. But she gave an 80% chance of fixing that.

The specialist put in a contact lens which I guess acts like a band aid. It is suppose to help the eye heal better. I'd never heard of rabbits wearing contact lenses. Imagine if you could have cats eye contacts in rabbits! I hesitate to even joke about that, because I don't want people effing with their bunnies eyes. Consult a vet dammit.

So, Saffron still has her eyes. And she might even get to be weaned off medication. Go figure. It seems that Glaucoma in rabbbits really can burn themselves out. I still would have liked to know that was a possibility way earlier. You can't imagine how much extra stress the constant watch for when the right time to remove the eyes produced.


  1. Thank you for doing this post I have a Himalayan rex and he has Glaucoma in his left eye and he must have been born with it as we have had him from 16 weeks old and he had it then he is currently being treated for a ulcer and My vet is an eye specialist and he did say some thing about a contact lense but was un sure if one could be used because he only has ones for dogs,cats or horse's but if you used cat lenses then this maybe good news for my Speedy,xx Rachel

  2. I'm really sorry to hear that. But I'm glad my post was able to help you, or at least help you feel better. My girl still has both of her eyes and they can do amazingly well blind. You just have to not change up their surroundings.

    The best thing you can do is, go to the store and get some Genteal lubricant eye cream. Not drops. The stuff that looks like vaseline. Make sure to give this every single day without interruption. A lubricated eye is a healthy eye. You will forever have to be on the lookout for ulcers, but she can live happily if you keep the pressure down and keep them lubricated.

    Best of luck.

  3. This is really interesting! I used to work with a specialist but have never heard of contact lenses for any animals. Very cool :)

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  5. Wow...I'm not going to put "proficient in blog commenting" on my resume. Just deleted my last post. Maybe that was a hint to work on brevity.

    Thank you for the first positive post about rabbit glaucoma I've read all day. Charlie the 2-year old bun, aka Charles Barkley, just received the same diagnosis. One eye is blind and about 50-65% in the other. His eyes look almost normal, I just knew he wasn't himself and pressed the vets until they figured out what was wrong. After learning about this disease, I am so torn up about the (what I thought to be) inevitable day I'd have to have his cute little face all hacked up. After reading this, there is hope that maybe like Saffron, Charlie can keep his eyes. Thank you! Who is your vet? I'd love to talk with them.

  6. Hello Gail,

    That's always a bummer to hear. I'm sorry. But they can really do better than you think blind. I hated the thought of this in the beginning since she didn't have a cage mate to help her. Send me some email and I'll try to help you the best I can. I was sort of in uncharted territory. I learned a lot by just being stubborn and refusing to give up on them (the eyes). I'd already been through that surgery on another bun and I didn't want to do it again. I don't think my experience is common. But who knows because most people won't put in the effort. Keep the pressure down, and keep them lubricated. Industrial strength eye lube. Rabbits don't have very much tear production at all. So the lube is as important as whatever other meds the vet gives you.

    I finally had to put Saffron down this year. She was eight. She had the eyes the whole time though! Her breed was sort of damaged in general. They had a lot of problems. So I think about 8 years was around her breeds life span. On the low side for rabbits in general.

    I'm hoping for the best for your Charlie (and I love the name BTW). All you can do it try, but I think it's a good sign his eyes are still relatively healthy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you.