A few months ago, my elderly rabbit developed an eye infection. Worried that it might be a symptom of Snuffles, a sometimes fatal respiratory disease in rabbits, I took her to my vet in Bangkok to find out what was wrong.
After various tests and two cultures of the infection to ascertain what was causing the problem, one culture confirmed the infection was nothing to do with Snuffles, which left me breathing a sigh of relief, What it did discover, however, was that my rabbit had what is known as conjunctivitis, or a common bacterial infection causing her to have very sore eyes.
As nothing much else had changed in my rabbit’s life, expect for a new brand of hay I had started to use, my vet said the dust from that was probably the cause, as it had likely penetrated the tear ducts and caused an infection.
That meant, while it was more than likely an easily fixable problem, it was still serious enough that my bunny had runny eyes and a white discharge that was obviously causing her discomfort, and it needed to be cleared up.
That’s when my vet prescribed an antibiotic ointment called Terramycin — an almost-clear gel that you apply to your rabbit’s eyes for the full recommended course of the treatment and, in most cases, the infection will clear up.
As for my rabbit, two weeks later, and her eyes are completely clear. Tests done at my vet’s also showed no more signs of an infection so, for my rabbit, the Terramycin ointment definitely worked. In Thailand too, it’s readily available for purchase over any drugstore counter (I bought mine at Boots), so if she develops the problem again, I’ve a pretty good chance of fixing it for around 40 baht.
If your rabbit develops teary eyes or a white or yellow discharge, she too may have an infection or an allergic reaction to something in her cage, If so, and your vet prescribes Terramycin, here are the tips my Bangkok vet gave me on how to use Terramcyin ointment for a rabbit’s eye infection correctly.
Bathe the eyes first – Before you apply the Terramycin ointment, it’s best to bathe your rabbit’s infected eye or eyes with a tissue dipped into warm water. This soothes the eye and also removes any dried on gunk that may have accumulated from the messy discharge.
Just remember, if both eyes are infected, use a clean tissue on each eye as you don’t want to spread bacteria from one to the other.
Applying the Terramycin ointment – Although my vet told me to simply squeeze a little bit of Terramycin ointment from the tube directly into the corner of my rabbit’s eye and then use my finger to apply it to the rest of the eye, that really didn’t work out too well. That’s because my rabbit, and probably yours too, didn’t take kindly to having a tube jammed into her eye, so wouldn’t sit still while I did it.
Not wanting to accidentally poke her eye out, I resorted instead to squeezing a small dollop of Terramycin ointment onto my middle finger. I then carefully spread the ointment around her upper and lower eye area, making sure it also went well into the corner of her eye where the infection was at its worst.
As soon as I did this, she closed her eyes and sat still, as this method of application was obviously more comfortable than the shock of a metal tube.
How often should you apply Terramycin? – I was told to apply it two to three times a day. Two times a day on most days was all I managed as, the minute my rabbit saw me appearing with the tube, she hopped away in the opposite direction. Twice a day, morning and night, however, seemed to have the desired effect as I noticed the white discharge had already disappeared at the end of day two.
How long should you use Terramycin for? – My vet told me to use it for the full recommended seven-day treatment as, if you stop midway through, the bacteria can develop an immunity to it so the second time you use the ointment it will not work as well.
She also told me to be sure to keep an eye on my rabbit’s eyes for the next couple of weeks after I stopped using the eye ointment, just to be sure the infection didn’t return. And, of course, I should get rid of the new brand of hay.
For more information on the actual use of Terramycin on animals, you’ll find out more from the manufacturer’s label.
Keeping Terramycin in your rabbit supply box – Some rabbit breeders actually keep a supply of Terramycin ointment in their rabbit’s supply box as it’s a handy thing to have if an infection occurs.
I do have a spare tube of the ointment in my rabbit kit, as it’s available in Thailand for only $1.35 for a small tube, so well worth having it in the medicine cabinet. That being said, I only plan on using it for emergencies.