Why do some Rabbits have Red Eyes?

You must have noticed that some rabbits (especially white rabbits) have red or pink eyes. It looks kind of unnatural if not outright scary. None of the popular pets, be it dogs, cats, parrots, etc., seem to share this characteristic. This makes these rabbits kind of unique and popular among some pet owners.

But what are the underlying causes of such a unique eye pigmentation?

Is it always natural, or maybe a symptom of an underlying illness?

Let’s find out.

Table of Contents
  • Reasons behind red eyes of some Rabbits
  • Disadvantages of Red Eyes
  • Advantages of Red Eyes
  • Rabbit breeds susceptible to Albinism

Reasons behind red eyes of some Rabbits

Mostly this feature is exhibited by albino rabbits. Such rabbits are pure white in colour, with no pigment (i.e. no melanin) in their fur, skin, and even eyes. So, such rabbits have red or blue eyes.

Albinism is an inherited trait. Such rabbits cannot produce tyrosinase, an enzyme that helps synthesize melanin from amino acid tyrosine.

So, the eyes of white albino rabbits are red/ruby in colour not because of any kind of red pigmentation, or red iris. His eyes appear reddish because the iris reflects light from his blood vessels instead of pigments.

Red eyes may also be because of some illness!

‘Red eyes with no white fur’ in rabbits can only be related to an eye infection, medically termed as Hyperemia (dry eye). It means redness in the eyes. It may be caused by an increased amount of blood in blood vessels of the eye, which may be because of some allergy, bacteria;/fungal infection, Conjunctivitis, or maybe Glaucoma. It may also be because of some injury, or due to tooth overgrowth pushing onto the eye from the inside. Do visit a vet ASAP in such cases. It may lead to eventual vision loss.

Such rabbits may showcase some other symptoms too, e.g. teary eyes, baldness (loss of fur) near eyes, lethargic/clumsy attitude (due to the pain/irritation), swelled eyelids, etc.

Also, not all white rabbits have red eyes. Keep that in mind. A white albino rabbit will have a red eye from his birth. If you have a white rabbit that has started showing red eyes recently, it’s definitely some cause of concern. Consult your vet and let him know that your rabbit did not naturally had red eyes.

A white rabbit most probably will have the albino gene. But it might be repressed. Just having a gene does not mean that he will showcase this genetic disorder too.

But most of the things in nature have an evolutionary or survival-related logic behind it. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of having a red eye?

Disadvantages of Red Eyes

Though red eyes in themselves are not bad in anyway, but such rabbits do have some vision related issues. Red eyes are more in the nature of symptom than a cause.

  • Such rabbits find bright light irritating. Their vision works better in shady places, and they prefer such conditions.
  • Objects may appear a bit blurry to them initially, till they focus.
  • If you think such rabbits will see better in dark, you will be wrong! Such rabbits have fewer rods in their eyes (photoreceptors that help us see in dark), and so they can’t see well in dark either. So, they make for an easy prey in the wild (for both predators and poachers alike). That’s why you would probably not find many albino rabbits in the open forests.
  • As they have no pigmentation on their skin either, they are more susceptible to UV rays, skin cancer, sunburn, etc. Apart from that they are as healthy as other ordinary rabbits.

Advantages of Red Eyes

Well, albino rabbits with red eyes are otherwise very healthy. Albinism is not a disease that may be transmitted to other rabbits or humans either. So, you may keep them as pets. Just keep the lights dim and limit their exposure to sunlight.

The main advantage of such a genetic condition is only that they are rather rare and look good – extremely white fur and red eyes have a visual appeal. So, many rabbit lovers do prefer to have such rabbits.

Rabbit breeds susceptible to Albinism

Any rabbit can suffer from albinism. However, this defect is not prevalent in most of the rabbit breeds, probably due to the suppressed recessive albino gene.

That being said, there sure are some rabbit breeds that showcase this genetic defect more often than others. Some of these have been listed below:

  • Himalayan rabbit or Russian Rabbit
  • Californian Rabbits: They are a cross-breed between Himalayan and Chinchilla.
  • Florida White
  • Giant Angora
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