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How to give eye medication to rabbits and small pets

Administering eye medication might be tricky at first, but don’t worry – it will become easier once you’ve given a few doses and your rabbit has realised it isn’t anything to worry about!

Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small pets sometimes need to be given eye medication. For example, they can get eye infections, scratches from foreign bodies (such as grass seeds), or eye problems caused by dental disease. One of the most common ways to manage these problems is by administering medication directly into the affected eye.

Most eye medications prescribed by vets for use in small pets are licensed for similar eye conditions in other species and have been shown to be safe and effective.  If your vet prescribes eye medication for your small pet, you might be asked to sign a form to say that your vet has explained the above to you and that you understand. Over-the-counter medications, or those designed for use in humans, should be avoided as they can be harmful to pets.

Before you leave the consulting room, ask your vet or nurse to show you how to apply the eye medication. 

How to give eye ointment to rabbits, guinea pigs and small pets

Rabbits can become frightened if they’re lifted off the ground or placed on a table to have their eye drops, and there’s a chance they’ll hurt themselves if they try to jump or kick.

  1. If possible, sit on the floor or on a low seat with your rabbit in your lap, or ask a helper to do this.
  2. If your rabbit is very wriggly, tends to nip, or if you don’t have a helper, you might need to wrap them in a large towel – sometimes called a ‘rabbit burrito’. Place your rabbit on the towel, ideally on the floor, with your rabbit’s head pointing to the middle of one long side. Draw the corners of the towel diagonally across from one shoulder to the opposite hip one side at a time, and tuck the left-over bits underneath your rabbit. This should help keep them calm and safe whilst you give them their eye drops or ointment. You can also use this technique if you ever need to give them oral medication.
  3. It can be scary for pets to have a tube of drops or ointment pointed straight at their eye, so it’s much better if you drip the medication onto the eye from above: hold the tube or bottle above your rabbit’s head in the same way you might hold a pen.
  4. Gently slide the skin above your rabbit’s eye upwards and towards the centre of the top of their head. This will open the top eyelid. 
  5. For drops, tip the bottle until the required number of drops land on the eye, and then let the skin and eyelid relax back. Ointments are thicker and tend to come out in a ‘worm’: let the ointment fall onto the eye, and if it doesn’t break free of the tube give it a little twist upwards and away from the eye.
  6. It doesn’t matter where the ointment or drops land on your pet's eye as they will spread over the eye as soon as your rabbit blinks. Your pet should be prevented from ingesting any drops or ointment, so always wipe away excess medication from your rabbit’s fur and from around their eyes to help stop them licking it off their paws when they clean themselves. 

You might find administering eye medication tricky at first, but don’t worry – take your time and it will become easier once you’ve given a few doses and your pet has realised it isn’t anything to worry about. 

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