Yes, rabbits do need to blink. As creatures that don’t have a duct system to keep their eyes clean and moist, blinking significantly helps them to clear dust, debris, and dirt from their eyes.
But if your rabbit is blinking non-stop or not at all? It’s a sign that there’s a problem.
Read on to find out what to do if your rabbit is blinking too much, if their eyes get stuck shut, and more!
Why Do Rabbits Blink
Rabbits blink to keep their eyes clear so their vision is as sharp as it can be. This is extra important for rabbits – by staying alert they have an early warning to the approach of predators and any extra time could be the difference in their survival.
Blinking could be in direct response to lighting – their eyes are pretty sensitive and bright lights can make them furiously blink.
Rabbits also have a third eyelid (also called the nictating membrane) that they use to clear their eyes if there’s any debris in there. They’ll also blink to moisten their eyes, which allows them to watch their surroundings for longer.
It’s quite rare for a rabbit to not blink enough. The problem is usually the opposite – too much blinking.
Some rabbits blink as little as 12 times per hour – and this is okay! If they stop blinking altogether, it could be that they’re frightened or have an eye problem. Luckily, they have the third eyelid which can keep their eyes shielded and moist so it isn’t as disastrous if they don’t blink much.
For information on rabbit eye conditions, check out this article on eye problems in rabbits.
If your rabbit isn’t opening their eyes at all, it’s likely that they can’t. One of the most common causes for this is if crust builds up around their eyes due to not having enough moisture.
To clean your rabbit’s crusty eye:
- Run a soft cloth or cotton pad under run water until it’s damp.
- Hold your rabbit in your lap, petting them while you do so they’re relaxed and comfortable.
- Hold the warm damp cloth to your rabbit’s eye. Don’t try wiping or pressing hard yet, you’re just trying to soften the crust.
- After a short time, try and gently wipe right under their eye. You should see the crust come off and your rabbit should be able to open their eyes.
If this is happening regularly, speak to a vet to see if there’s any medication they can use to help them out. You might need to regularly clean their eyes as part of their grooming to keep on top of the problem.
If a rabbit is blinking too much, there’s a good chance that their eye is irritated in some way.
This could be if a foreign object is stuck there, an infection, or if some debris is trapped in or around the eye. Your rabbit will struggle to fix this and will probably require a gentle hand from you.
To check if there’s something in their eye, gently pull down their eyelid and use a soft towel or clean finger to brush the area. Never shine a torch in their eyes – it’ll blind them and scare them.
If a rabbit is super alert then they might blink more while standing still and scanning their surroundings. This could also be due to nerves or if they’re cold. If they’re blinking a lot faster than normal, assess the context to work out what the problem is.
Your rabbit will use their third eyelid throughout the entire day. Since it’s used so often, it can be disastrous if there’s a problem.
Common issues rabbits can get with their third eyelid include:
- Trauma: If your rabbit gets poked in their eye or hits their eye on something, the tissue can be torn or the eyelid knocked out of place.
- Cherry eye: This is when the membrane prolapses and it’ll protrude and be easy to see. It could be caused by cancer, heart disease, or another reason.
- Cysts: These can develop on the eyelids and require surgery to remove.
Any problem with your rabbit’s third eyelid will require a trip to the vets.
On the subject of eyes, you might be interested in this rabbit eye trivia!
- Rabbits have almost 360-degree vision (apart from a tiny blind spot right in front of their nose). This is due to their eyes being positioned on the side of their head.
- Baby rabbits are born with their eyes shut and don’t usually open them until they’re around 10 days old.
- Rabbits can’t see the color red.
- Rabbits have three eyelids.
- Rabbits struggle to see in 3D.
Do Rabbits Close Their Eyes?
Yes, rabbits do close their eyes, but only for one of three reasons. You’ll usually see your rabbit’s eyes closed if they’re relaxed and in a deep sleep, if they’re enjoying being petted and groomed, or if they have a medical condition affecting their eyes.
How Often Do Rabbits Blink Per Day?
On average, a rabbit will blink 10-12 times per hour. You might not even see your rabbit blink because the third eyelid is often to keep their eye moist, meaning that they don’t need to blink for that reason anymore.
Do Rabbits Have Eyelids?
Rabbits do have eyelids, but not in the same way as animals like cats and dogs. They instead have three eyelids, one on the top, one on the bottom, and one right in front of the cornea called the nictating membrane that acts as a shield on their eyes and keeps them moist. This is important for rabbits to have sharp, unobstructed vision.
Do Rabbits Have Eyelashes?
Yes, rabbits have eyelashes that help protect their eyes from dust, grit, dirt, and any debris. In some cases, eyelashes can start growing inside their cornea (called distichiasis) which is a condition that requires veterinary treatment.
Do Rabbits Sleep with Their Eyes Open?
Yes, rabbits do generally sleep with their eyes open. Only if they’re feeling completely safe and comfortable will they go into a deep sleep and close their eyes. They have a third eyelid known as the nictating membrane that shields their eyes and keeps them moist, allowing the rabbit to keep their eyes open even when asleep.