Some rabbits have red eyes which may appear pale pink or bright red in certain lights. If it’s the first time you’ve seen a rabbit with red eyes, it can be quite shocking to look at! They certainly give a bunny a unique appearance.
Rabbits with red eyes have a condition called albinism. This is a genetic condition, so it’s inherited from their parents. Albinism affects the pigment in the skin, fur, and eyes. It basically means the rabbit lacks pigment.
The redness of the eye comes from the way the light reflects from inside the rabbit’s eye, rather than the iris actually being a red color. We’ll take a closer look at albino rabbits later on in this article.
Do All Rabbits Have Red Eyes?
No, most rabbits don’t have red eyes! In fact, only white rabbits with the albinism gene have red eyes. It’s important to note that not all albino rabbits have red eyes, some have blue eyes. They still have the albinism gene but they also have a gene that gives their eyes the blue color.
All albino rabbits will have some white on them due to the lack of pigment. However, not all albino rabbits will be completely white. For example, they can have some darker coloring on the tips of their ears or paws.
Which Rabbit Breeds Have Red Eyes?
So, which rabbits can have the gene for albinism that gives them those striking red eyes? Well, there are a lot of different breeds that can have the albino gene but it depends on their breeding.
Only three breeds always have white fur and red eyes: the Himalayan, Florida White, and Californian. The Florida White is entirely white all over with red eyes. The Himalayan and Californians are white and also have dark patches around their nose, ears, feet, and tail, but they still have the albino gene.
The table below details the other breeds that can sometimes have the albino gene depending on their breeding.
|Definitely Have the Albino Gene||Can Have the Albino Gene|
|Florida White||Flemish Giant|
|Californian ||Britannia Petite|
|Lop Eared Breeds|
What Other Eye Colors Can Rabbits Have?
Rabbits who don’t have the albino gene won’t have red eyes. Instead, they can have a range of eye colors depending on their breed and genes.
Rabbits can have the following colored eyes:
- Very dark brown: This type of brown is usually so dark that it can appear black, making the iris hard to see. This is the most common rabbit eye color.
- Brown: Other lighter shades of brown eyes are also common.
- Blue: This is rare and can be a striking blue or more gray in tone.
- Pink: Another rare color that is different from the red eyes we’re discussing and is caused by different genes.
- Marbled: A rabbit with marbled eyes will have two or more colors in its eyes.
In most rabbits, their eye color comes from a pigment in their iris, just like humans! On the other hand, rabbits with the albinism gene lack pigment, even in their eyes. Instead, their eyes are red because of the way the light reflects on the blood vessels inside the rabbit’s eye.
Albino rabbits also lack pigment in their fur, causing them to appear white. As we mentioned earlier, some rabbits with the albino gene also have other color genes which can cause some darker markings on some areas of their body.
The albino gene can be found at the C-locus. Essentially, a locus is just the place in the rabbit’s DNA where a specific gene is stored. Letters mark where each locus is, and they all have different jobs. Genes at the C locus play an important part in determining which color a rabbit’s coat will be. The ‘c’ gene (the gene for albinism) takes away color, leaving an albino rabbit with white fur.
The gene that causes albinism is a recessive gene. This sounds complicated, but it just means that both parents would need to carry the gene in order for a kit (a baby rabbit) to inherit the gene. If a non-albino rabbit mated with an albino rabbit, the kits would not be albino.
Domestic albino rabbits (those kept as pets) are very sought after because they have a unique and beautiful appearance. Breeders take great care to breed two rabbits with the albino gene to create a litter of albino kits.
Don’t worry, even though albinism is a genetic condition, it doesn’t mean your rabbit is unwell if they have it. Albinism doesn’t cause any health issues for rabbits and they should be able to live a completely normal life.
Are There Albino Rabbits in the Wild?
You won’t see many albino rabbits in the wild because the gene is rare and needs careful breeding to create baby albino rabbits.
Don’t forget that rabbits are prey animals. Therefore in the wild, they need to blend in so they don’t draw the attention of predators. Another reason you don’t see many bright white rabbits in the wild is that they would get caught by predators far too easily.
Do Albino Rabbits Have Poor Eyesight?
Albino rabbits tend to have poorer eyesight compared to non-albino rabbits. This is because they have fewer photoreceptors in their eyes. Photoreceptors are light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye that help rabbits see.
You’ll quite often see albino rabbits lowering their head and moving it slowly around. This is the scanning of their environment so they can figure out where everything is and work out the distance between objects. All rabbits do this scanning behavior but albino rabbits do it far more often.
How Can You Tell if Your Albino Rabbit Is Blind?
Just like any other rabbit, some albino rabbits can be blind. This may be caused by illness, injury, age, or genetics.
If they’re blind, there are several behavior changes you might notice. For example, they might start bumping into things more. They may appear more nervous, especially in new environments, and may be more cautious moving around.
They might move more slowly and stick close to the wall for reassurance. You may also notice they’re more easily startled by sudden noises or by things approaching them.
There are also physical signs of blindness. MediVet states that potential physical signs include: “swelling or redness around the eye, receding eyeballs, and dilated or cloudy pupils”.
Although some of these signs may be harder to spot against an albino rabbit’s red eyes, you should still be able to notice most of them. If you’re in doubt, the best rule is to get your rabbit checked by the vet if you notice any changes in their eye area.
If your albino rabbit is blind, don’t worry they can still live a full, happy life with the right veterinary care and adjustments in the home!
As we discussed earlier, albino rabbits don’t have pigment in their iris. This means a lot more light can get into their eyes as they don’t have a layer of protection. This makes their eyes much more sensitive to light than most rabbits, especially bright lights and direct sunlight. You may notice that they squint more often or choose to use shelters or areas of shade more often.
Caring for an Albino Rabbit
For the most part, caring for an albino rabbit is the same as caring for any other domestic rabbit. They have the same needs as any other rabbit of a similar breed.
There are a couple of things you should keep in mind. Due to their light sensitivity, if you own an albino rabbit it’s really important that you provide plenty of shelters for your bunny.
Since their fur is so bright white, it can get dirty far easier than a darker-colored bunny. They may get stains on the bottom of their feet or around their back end, for example from using the litter box. As long as you are cleaning their litter daily and keeping their living area clean, this isn’t anything to worry about. It’s completely natural and doesn’t mean that you aren’t looking after them properly.
Eye Health in Rabbits
A rabbit’s eyes are a delicate and crucial part of their body. Redness around a rabbit’s eyes can be an indication of a health issue. If the redness is a new development, or they don’t have a white body (meaning they don’t have albinism) then it’s likely a health condition.
Hyperemia (also known as the red eye) is a common condition causing swelling, inflammation, irritation, and redness around a rabbit’s eye. You will likely also see redness in the eyeball if your rabbit isn’t albino. Pet MD explains that the: “appearance of blood vessels in the eyeball can develop because of various reasons, including many systemic or body diseases.”
Symptoms of Hyperemia
- Red eyes or redness around the eyes
- Hair loss around the eyes
- Crustiness around the eyes
- Extra tissue around the eyes
- Problems with vision
- Discharge from the eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Nasal discharge (and other symptoms of respiratory infection)
- Holding their eye shut or ‘squinting’
- Hunched posture
- Loss of appetite
- Appearing generally unwell
- Changes in behavior
The condition can have a range of causes including conjunctivitis, bacterial infections, fungal infections, glaucoma, and even dental disease.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your rabbit, it’s crucial you take them straight to the vet. They will be able to examine your rabbit and do tests to determine the cause. They will then be able to deal with the root cause and prescribe medication to treat the issue.
Other Potential Causes of Red Eyes
Although hyperemia is the most common cause of redness around the eyes in rabbits, there are other potential causes.
- A foreign body in the eye (such as hay or grass)
- An inflamed tear duct
- An injury (through play or fighting with another rabbit, for example)
- An eye ulcer
- An abscess
- Eyelash disorders
- Eyelid disorders
- Myxomatosis (a virus that all domestic rabbits should be vaccinated against)
So, as you can see there are lots of reasons a non-albino rabbit might have red eyes. All of which require veterinary attention and treatment to keep your rabbit healthy.
Caring for Your Rabbits Eyes
Prevention is far better than treatment when it comes to eye health and thankfully, there are lots of ways you can take care of your rabbit’s eyes to reduce the risk of health issues.
You can take care of your rabbit’s eyes in the following ways:
- Clean their living area regularly: Keeping on top of cleaning their living area reduces bacteria and ammonia levels, which can cause irritation and infection.
- Prevent dental disease: Your rabbit’s eyes are so close to their teeth, and as we mentioned earlier dental issues can lead to problems with their eyes. You can prevent dental disease by ensuring they have plenty of hay and other safe items to gnaw on to keep their teeth clean and worn down.
- Keep up to date with vaccinations: The viral disease myxomatosis we mentioned can be prevented by vaccinating your rabbit against it.
- Plenty of room: Ensure your bunny has plenty of room to move around freely and minimize sharp edges in their environment to reduce the risk of eye injury.
- Avoid overhead hay racks: Be careful with where you position your hayrack to ensure the hay isn’t always falling down onto your rabbit’s head. This could result in them getting hay in their eyes.
- Regular health checks: Ensuring you keep a close eye on your rabbit’s health (including their eyes) allows you to notice any changes early and get treatment quickly.
You shouldn’t need to clean your rabbit’s eyes often, as they do a good job of keeping them clean themselves. If you do need to, you can use a damp washcloth to gently clean the eye area.
- Molday, R. S., & Moritz, O. L. (2015). Photoreceptors at a glance. Journal of cell science, 128(22), 4039–4045.
- MediVet, (2022), How to tell if your rabbit is blind or deaf.
- PetMD, (2008), Red Eye in Rabbits.