Epiphora in Rabbits

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names See also:
Disease Agents
  • May be due to excessive tear production or inadequate drainage. (B600.11.w11)
  • Secretion is increased by stimulation of the facial nerve, trigeminal nerve, and sympathetic fibres from the superior cervical ganglion. (B600.11.w11)
  • Increased tear production may be be seen with ocular irritation or pain (B528.14.w14, B600.11.w11, J29.6.w2):
  • Reduced drainage may occur with:
    • Congenital - conformation problems. Rabbit breeds with a short nose (e.g. Netherland Dwarf) have taut eyelids and a shallow medial canthal lake, or even mild entropion of the lower eyelid; this anatomical situation can reduce drainage from the eye through the lacrimal punctum. Additionally, flat-faced rabbits may have a greater than usual degree of bend in the nasolacrimal duct both at the lacrimal foramen and at the base of the upper incisor. (B600.11.w11)
    • Dental disease affecting the nasolacrimal duct. (B600.11.w11) See: Dacrocystitis in Rabbits
Infectious Agent(s) --
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s) --
General Description
  • Aqueous discharge in the eye. (B530.w1)
  • Epiphora (tears overflowing from the eyes down the face) is seen in rabbits associated with inadequate drainage or excess tear production. (B530.w1, B600.11.w11, J29.6.w2)
    • Most commonly, it is associated with dental disease affecting the nasolacrimal duct and causing inadequate drainage. (B600.11.w11)
  • Fur below the eye is matted and crusted. (B600.11.w11, J29.6.w2)
  • Facial dermatitis with secondary bacterial infection may develop. (B600.11.w11)
  • Schirmer tear test. (B601.12.w12)
  • Note: In a study of 142 apparently normal rabbit eyes, this test gave an average of 5.30 +/- 2.96 mm/min, range 0 - 155 mm/min. A range of 0 - 11.2 mm/min (covering mean +/- 2 SD) was suggested as "normal" (this would cover 95% of the normal population). (J13.51.w5)
    • There may be breed differences; values for two Netherland Dwarf rabbits were 12.00 +/- 2.5, while for two New Zealand Black rabbits the vales were 2.50 +/- 1.0. (J13.51.w5)
    • In individuals with a unilateral eye lesion, the test results for the diseased eye should be compared with the finding for the other eye. (B601.12.w12)
Further Information
  • In epiphora associated with reduced drainage (see: Dacrocystitis in Rabbits)
    • The nasolacrimal duct may rupture into the nasal passage, which provides an alternative drainage route, resolving the epiphora. (B600.11.w11)
    • Tooth roots stop growing as dental disease progresses, which may result in resolution of the epiphora. (B600.11.w11)
  • Correction of the underlying cause of the epiphora, if possible. (B600.11.w11)
  • Ensure that the rabbit's environmental conditions are good - clean and dry, well ventilated and free of ammonia. (B600.11.w11)
  • Apply topical ophthalmic ointment to the eye to control secondary bacterial infection. (B600.11.w11)
  • Treat any associated facial dermatitis: regularly clip and clean the affected area of fur, and apply ophthalmic ointment or antiseptic cream as required. (B600.11.w11)
  • Note: a bonded rabbit companion will keep the face clean by licking and grooming. (B600.11.w11)
  • Removal of incisors with overgrown roots may be carried out if they are maloccluded. (B600.11.w11)
    • Removal of the incisors in not straightforward. (B600.11.w11)
    • Preferably leave incisors in place if they are in proper occlusion. (B600.11.w11)
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); Dr David L Williams MA VetMB PhD CertVOphthal FRCVS (V.w133)

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