Why Do Rabbits Have Red Eyes?

Certain breeds of rabbits have naturally red eyes – this is due to their genetics and how the light reflects within their eyes. There are a few differences between a rabbit that has red eyes and one that doesn’t, but they’re easy to overcome.

There is also a condition rabbits can develop called ‘red eye’ that is unrelated to the rabbit having red colored eyes. Later in the article, I explore this condition, how to recognize signs, and how to avoid your rabbit getting it.

Read on to find out which breeds of rabbits have red eyes, how having a red eye affects the rabbit, and more!

Do All Rabbits Have Red Eyes?

No, not all rabbits have red eyes.

There are 48 breeds of rabbits, and amongst them, you can find brown (the most common), blue (quite rare, may look grayer), pink (extremely rare), red (albinism), and marbled (mixtures of two or more colors).

To get a rabbit with red eyes, they’d have to have a particular sequence of genes. Though some breeders specifically arrange mating between rabbits to get a specific looking rabbit (e.g. if they want a white rabbit with red eyes).

Why Do Some Rabbits Have Red Eyes?

Red eyes in rabbits are caused by albinism – this usually means that they don’t have any color in their body.

The ‘red’ of their eye is actually from a reflection within the rabbit’s eye – not the color of the iris.

Usually, a rabbit’s genes produce a pigment called melanin that reflects certain wavelengths of light, making the visible color. Albinism overpowers any other genes and there’s no instruction in there for their eyes or coats to be a specific color.

Which Rabbit Breeds Have Red Eyes?

Most people imagine white rabbits with red eyes, which is the typical appearance of a rabbit with albinism.

There are several breeds of rabbits that are recognized as always having red eyes:

  • Himalayan.
  • Florida White.
  • Californian.

The breeds listed below have some chance of having red eyes:

  • Angora Giant.
  • Lionhead.
  • Mini Lop.
  • Holland Lop.
  • Britannia Pettite.
  • Flemish Giant.
  • Jersey Wooly.
  • Netherland Dwarf.
  • Polish.
  • Rex.
  • Satin

Does Having Red Eyes Affect Rabbits?

Having red eyes doesn’t affect how you should care for your rabbit – they still need the same food, exercise, and attention.

However, their red eyes do mean some differences:

  • Poorer eyesight: Their vision isn’t by any means terrible, but it’s just not quite as sharp as their brethren with colored eyes. This usually means that they take a bit longer to scan their environment when checking if it’s safe.
  • More sensitivity to light: More light passes through their eyes (because they don’t have an iris) so they’ll have greater difficulty in bright light and squint more. Bright sunlight might even hurt their eyes, so you’ll need to take extra precautions to protect them from such bright lights.

Red Eye in Rabbits

Certain illnesses can cause a condition called red eye that’s swelling and irritation of the rabbit’s eye or eyelid. This is different from your rabbit having naturally red colored eyes.

Red eye can be caused by allergies, bacterial infections, conjunctivitis, fungal infections, glaucoma, and some dental diseases. If your rabbit has red eye, you’ll need to take them to a vet ASAP to be treated.

Symptoms of red eye are:

  • Swollen eyelids.
  • Damaged vision.
  • Discharge from their eyes.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Crusty eyes.
  • Extra tissue around their eyes.
  • Facial masses.
  • Lethargy.
  • Depression.

If you notice any of these symptoms and your pet isn’t behaving normally, you’ll need to see a vet. Never try to treat it yourself or wait to see if it goes away.

How to Keep Your Rabbit’s Eye Healthy

Keeping your rabbit’s eyes healthy should be a top priority. With rabbits, prevention is always better than having to treat a problem.

Check out these top tips for a rabbit’s healthy eyes:

  • Feed them a healthy diet: Rabbits need fiber-rich hay, a variety of fresh vegetables, pellets, occasional treats, and plenty of water to be healthy. This provides them with all the nutrients that they need to keep their body running smoothly.
  • Good dental hygiene: Dental diseases in rabbits often lead to eye diseases. Giving your rabbit enough hay to chew will help keep their teeth short. Too long teeth can lead to inflammation of the tear ducts.
  • Check their eyes regularly: If you check regularly, you’ll notice as soon as something changes and be able to take them to a vet as early as possible.
  • Keep their cage clean: Cleaning out dirty and rotten hay and litter from your rabbit’s cage reduces bacteria and makes a far more pleasant environment for your rabbit to live in.
  • Help them groom: Rabbits often lick each other’s eyes to keep them clean when grooming, but if you have a single rabbit they’ll need help doing this. By regularly (and gently) wiping your rabbit’s eyes you can prevent soreness.
  • Get regular vet check-ups: By seeing a vet regularly, they get a thorough check-up and the vet might be able to spot something that you missed.

Related Questions

Do All White Rabbits Have Blue Eyes?

No, not all white rabbits have blue eyes. But all red-eyed rabbits do have to have white fur. This is because a rabbit with red colored eyes will have albinism – a condition where their genes are wired to not create a pigment that would cause light to reflect from their eyes, meaning they appear red. Because of this, they won’t have any color in their fur either.

Are Red Eyed Rabbits Rare?

Yes, red-eyed rabbits are quite rare. This is because the albinism gene is recessive – so if a red eyed white rabbit is bred with a colored rabbit, none of their offspring would have red eyes for at least a generation.

What Does It Mean if a Rabbit Has White Eyes?

A rabbit with white eyes has a cataract. This usually only affects older rabbits but is quite a serious condition. If you notice this in your rabbit, speak to a vet to discuss what you can do next.

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