Dacryocystitis (Blocked tear duct)

Dacryocystitis is a common condition in rabbits, where the tear ducts become infected and inflamed. The duct becomes obstructed, tear flowstops and prevents natural flushing from the duct causing accumulationof debris and complete blockage.

What causes it?
The nasolacrimal duct in rabbits is very bendy and runs very close tothe roots of their cheek teeth (molars). It is often related to dentaldisease due to root overgrowth or infection.
What are the signs?

  • White pus-like discharge: can be seen at the corner of the eye
  • Crusty or matted fur, hair loss: causing local irritation
  • Pain/swelling around the eye
  • Skin scalding: the area around the eye can become red and ulcerated
  • Tear staining: on the fur around the face
  • Can be both eyes or just one

What is the treatment?
The mainstay of treatment for this condition is to unblock theobstruction by flushing the tear ducts. There are small openings to the tear duct in the corner of each eye. We can place a small tube (cannula) into this opening to allow us to flush the tear duct with sterile saline. This procedure can usually be done while the rabbit is conscious, after administering some topical local anaesthetic drops into the eye. If the flushing is initially unsuccessful then it may need to be repeated after treatment with some topical antibiotic eye drops. This condition can become recurrent, dependent on the cause. It is important for the vet to check the teeth properly to determine the primary cause of the blocked tear duct and dental x-rays can be of benefit here to assess the length of the tooth roots. Sedation or anaesthesia will be required to evaluate the cheek teeth and their roots fully.

Can I prevent this from happening?
Feeding a good quality, high fibre diet will help prevent dental disease. See the ‘Rabbit Nutrition’ handout for more information.

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