A Clean Nestbox to Prevent Infection
[Editor’s Note: When baby rabbits are in the nest box, they can suffer from infections in their eyes and genitals. For this reason it’s very important to keep a clean, dry box for them to sleep in. If the bedding in the nest becomes wet or soiled, you should change the bedding and thoroughly sanitize the box. Save out the dry fur that the doe pulled to add to the new nest. Once you have changed the bedding, the kits may take a while to settle in. During this period they may crawl out of the box, and if they do it’s a good chance that they will chill or get lost. So keep a close eye on the kits after you clean their box, and replace them if ever you find them outside the box before two weeks of age. Sometimes I even take the box away from the doe for several hours and keep a piece of wire over the top of the box, to prevent them from crawling out. Baby rabbits are at risk of death from exposure until they are 10-14 days old.]
Caring For Baby Rabbit Eyes
Baby rabbits are born with their eyes shut. The eyes do not open until they are about ten, eleven, or twelve days old.
If there are kits that are twelve days of age and their eyes have not opened, I will intervene to help out. I use a sterile eye wash and a clean cotton ball to soak the eyelids for a few minutes (try to warm up the solution a bit if it’s very cold). Then, with clean fingers, I gently pry open the eyes.
If there was crusty matter keeping the eyes closed, then I apply a one-time application of optic ointment (tri-optic or terramycin ointment).
Treatment for Optical Infections in Young Bunnies
If an eye is full of pus, this is called “nest box eye.” Treatment includes rinsing it with the eye wash and use the ointment twice a day for several days–until the symptoms have been gone for twenty-four hours. It can take persistence to clear up the symptoms.
You should consult your vet before giving medical treatment.
The bunny in the picture had an eye infection coming out of the nestbox. It took frequent treatments of warm water, soft cloths, and eye ointment to get it to clear up, but it finally did. He had a light spot on that eye for a while, which is a disqualification from competition. However, the spot went away as he matured.