Conjunctivitis in Lagomorphs and Ferrets

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names Blepharoconjunctivitis

See also: 

In Rabbits
In Ferrets
Disease Agents
In Rabbits
  • Environmental irritants e.g. dust from poor hay or straw. (B530.w1, B600.11.w11, B601.12.w12, J83.13.w2)
  • Allergies (J4.189.w15) e.g. reaction to indoor paint. (J29.16.w2)
  • Mechanical irritation/trauma. (B530.w1, B600.11.w11)
  • Contact of the eyelids or globe with irritants or caustic substances. (J4.189.w15)
  • Ammonia - associated with urine soaked bedding and poor ventilation. (B530.w1, B600.11.w11)
    • Excess protein in the diet results in excess nitrogen excretion, therefore higher ammonia levels. (B600.11.w11)
  • Abnormalities of the eyelids. (B600.11.w11)
  • Inadequate ocular drainage due to blockage of the nasolacrimal duct (usually associated with elongated tooth roots), ectropion or other conformation problems. (B600.11.w11)
  • Myxomatosis
  • Treponematosis in Lagomorphs
  • Often associated with dental disease (B600.11.w11) and with obstruction and infection of the nasolacrimal duct. See: Dacrocystitis in Rabbits
  • Infectious agents, mostly secondary, opportunistic pathogens also found in the normal rabbit eye include: (B601.12.w12, J4.189.w15)
In Ferrets
  • Conjunctivitis may be bacterial or viral in origin. (B602.39.w39, B530.w1, J29.6.w4) 
  • Viral infections in which conjunctivitis may occur include Canine Distemper and Influenza in Ferrets (B602.39.w39, J29.6.w4)
  • Bacterial conjunctivitis may be a local infection or part of a systemic infection such as Salmonellosis. (B530.w1, J29.6.w4)
  • Irritant conjunctivitis may be seen with dusty bedding material. (J29.6.w4)
  • Conjunctivitis may occur with biotin deficiency. (J29.6.w4)
Infectious Agent(s)
Non-infectious Agent(s)
Physical Agent(s)
General Description
In Rabbits
  • Acute or chronic. (J34.24.w3)
    • Severe disease may develop within a couple of days. (J83.13.w2)
  • Unilateral or bilateral. (J83.13.w2)
  • Hyperaemia and oedema of the conjunctival membrane. (B600.11.w11)
    • Mild disease: blood vessels of the conjunctiva and sclera are dilated, with the vessels unusually prominent and more tortuous than normal. (J83.13.w2)
    • Moderate: generalised hyperaemia, with diffuse reddening of the mucous membranes. (J83.13.w2)
    • Severe: exudate which is initially serous then seropurulent and finally purulent (usually cream in colour, sometimes greenish). (J83.13.w2)
  • With blepharoconjunctivitis, also inflammation of the eyelids. (J29.6.w2)
  • Clear serous to mucoid or thick mucopurulent or purulent ocular discharge. (B531.16.w16, B600.11.w11, B601.12.w12, J34.24.w3)
    • Mucopurulent discharge with e.g. Staphylococcus aureus infection. (B531.16.w16)
  • Crusting on the eyelids. (J4.189.w15)
  • Soiling of the periorbital area with exudate. (B600.11.w11, J4.189.w15, J83.13.w2)
  • Associated facial alopecia and dermatitis due to scalding from chronic epiphora. (B600.11.w11)
  • Cornea may appear dry, rough and slightly cloudy when the exudate has become purulent. (J83.13.w2)
  • Sometimes also rhinitis. (J4.189.w15, J34.24.w3)
  • Occasionally associated with pneumonia. (J34.24.w3)
  • With Pasteurellosis in Lagomorphs, a variety of other signs such as rhinitis, subcutaneous abscesses, otitis media/interna may also be present. (B530.w1)
In Ferrets
  • In bacterial conjunctivitis, mucopurulent ocular discharge. (B530.w1) 
  • With Canine Distemper with special reference to Ferrets and notes on Bears, mucopurulent oculonasal discharge, corneal ulceration, severe blepharitis and keratoconjunctivitis sicca may be seen as well as anorexia, several days before the skin lesions (prurutic erythematous rash on the chin, footpads and groin) appear. (B530.w1, J29.6.w4)
  • With Influenza in Ferrets, mucoserous nasal discharge, sneezing and lethargy. (B602.39.w39, J29.6.w4)
  • With Salmonellosis, mucopurulent ocular discharge as well as fever and haemorrhagic diarrhoea. (J29.6.w4)
In Rabbits
  • Clinical signs:
    • "The normal rabbit eye is bright with a smooth corneal surface. The scleral vessels are indistinct and the sclera itself pale. Vessels of the 3rd eyelid may be more prominent, giving the membrane a reddish coloration, but they are never congested and tortuous in the normal eye. A slight mucoid discharge may be present at the inner canthus." (J83.13.w2)
  • Flushing of the nasolacrimal duct. Appearance of purulent material around the cannula indicates dacrocystitis (Dacrocystitis in Rabbits), while absence of such material suggests conjunctivitis without dacrocystitis. (B601.12.w12)
  • Radiography: 
    • To assess the teeth, confirming whether or not there is underlying dental disease. (B600.11.w11)
    • Contrast radiography of the nasolacrimal duct using iodinated contrast medium. (B600.11.w11)
Further Information
In Rabbits
  • Identify and treat any underlying problem. (B600.11.w11)
    • Remove foreign bodies such as hay seeds.
    • Surgically correct entropion.
    • Improve ventilation.
    • Ensure bedding is clean and dry.
    • Ensure hay is dust-free.
  • Flush the nasolacrimal ducts, as conjunctivitis is often associated with dacrocystitis. (J34.24.w3)
  • Flush the eyes with ophthalmologic saline to remove purulent discharge which may inactivate topical antibiotics. (J34.24.w3)
  • If possible, remove discharge from the eyelids daily by gently scrubbing the closed lids with a dilute baby shampoo, using a gauze sponge, followed by rinsing the lids, again using a gauze sponge. (J34.24.w3)
  • Topical antibiotic treatment. (B600.11.w11, J4.189.w15, J29.6.w2, J34.24.w3)
  • Systemic antibiotics in addition to topical if the condition is not responsive to topical treatment alone:
    • Oral Trimethoprim-Sulphonamides. (J34.24.w3)
    • Enrofloxacin. (B601.12.w12, J34.24.w3)
    • Penicillin G (parenteral). (B601.12.w12)
    • In addition to topical gentamicin ophthalmic ointment, gentamicin sulphate 4 mg/kg intramuscularly for five days followed by procaine penicillin G (60,000 IU/kg intramuscularly every 12 hours) was given to a rabbit with Staphylococus aureus conjunctivitis. (J4.189.w15)
    • For Pasteurellosis in Lagomorphs topical chloramphenicol drops or ointment, four times daily, plus systemic antibiotics (60,000 IU/kg procaine penicillin G intramuscularly one daily for 10 days or oxytetracycline 5 mg/kg intramuscularly twice daily for 10 days or tetracycline 50 - 100 mg/kg in divided doses orally for 10 days. (B530.w1)
  • Hot water compresses plus systemic antibiotics (enrofloxacin or penicillin G (parenteral)). (B601.12.w12)
  • Treat any periocular inflammation or ulceration. (J4.189.w15)
  • Use of an autogenous vaccine has been suggested for conjunctivitis associated with Staphylococcus aureus infection. (J83.11.w2)
In Ferrets
  • In bacterial conjunctivitis, topical treatment with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. (B530.w1) 
    • If infections recur, therapy should be based on bacterial culture and sensitivity. (B530.w1)
In Rabbits
  • Use good quality, non-dusty, hay and straw. (B600.11.w11, J83.13.w2)
  • Place hay on the floor or in a hopper (solid, with a top opening for loading and an opening near the bottom from which the rabbit can take hay) rather than in an overhead hay rack. (B600.11.w11, J83.13.w2)
Associated Techniques
Host taxa groups /species
Disease Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referees Sheila Crispin MA VetMB BSc PhD DipECVO DVA DVOphthal FRCVS (V.w130)

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