Red-eyed white rabbits have a unique appearance. The sight can be concerning if you do not understand the cause. Thankfully, your rabbit is not sick.
Rabbits with red eyes have albinism. This genetic mutation that leaves a rabbit with no pigmentation in her fur or eyes. Albino rabbits are sensitive to sunlight, but otherwise identical to other rabbits. Albinism does not lead to additional health concerns.
If your rabbit has red eyes, but brown or black fur, she is not albino. Your rabbit’s eyes have become inflamed. There could be many medical explanations for this happening.
My Rabbit Has Red Eyes and White Fur
This appearance is a result of albinism. Albino rabbits have a lack of melanin in their fur and eyes. Originally, albinism in rabbits was a result of genetic mutation. This mutation caused a dominant gene to block the creation of an enzyme called tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is what creates pigmentation.
Pigmentation is what brings color to a rabbit’s fur and eyes, in the form of melanin. It’s what gives rabbits their unique markings and appearance. As an albino rabbit lacks this melanin, her fur will be as white as snow.
The albino gene has deliberately been bred into some rabbit breeds. This is so people can choose to keep white rabbits as pets. No rabbit without the albino gene will have white fur. Equally, no rabbit with white fur will lack this gene.
Why Do Albino Rabbits Have Red Eyes?
The iris of a rabbit’s eye reflects light. Ordinarily, this light is reflected from pigments in the eye. If a rabbit has small and well-spaced melanin particles, she’ll have blue eyes. Larger melanin particles lead to brown eyes.
Albino rabbits do not have any melanin particles to reflect. This means that the iris reflects light straight from the blood vessels. This is what gives white rabbits their red-eyed appearance.
What Rabbit Breeds are Prone to Albinism?
Any rabbit is capable of carrying the albino gene, albeit recessively. Some rabbit breeds are deliberately engineered to have the albino gene. The most common rabbits with the albino gene available to domestic pet owners are:
- Himalayan Rabbits. This breed has a white body. They also have a black nose, ears, tail, and feet. Himalayan rabbits are popular pets due to their calm, docile nature.
- Californian Rabbits. This breed is often mistaken for the Himalayan rabbit. These two rabbits look almost identical, and have similar temperaments.
- Angora Giant Rabbits. This is the largest breed of rabbit recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association. An albino Angora Giant rabbit will resemble a cloud. This rabbit has a coat made of wool, not fur.
- Lionhead Rabbits. This breed is celebrated for its unique fur growth, which resembles a lion’s mane. Like albinism, this began as a genetic mutation and evolved into an aesthetic choice.
If a rabbit has markings of any color, they are not strictly albino. Black feet and ears on a Himalayan or Californian rabbit, for example, preclude them from albinism. White fur always dictates the presence of the albino gene, though.
Does Albinism Place a Rabbit’s Health in Danger?
An albino rabbit is a healthy rabbit. If your white-furred pet has any health concerns, they are unlikely to be connected to albinism. Her immune system and internal organs will remain robust.
There is only one consideration to make around albino rabbits. Be wary of prolonged exposure to sunlight. It can be tough for an albino rabbit to look at the sun. Her skin will also burn slightly faster than that of other rabbits.
The red eyes of these animals are particularly sensitive to bright light. No rabbit enjoys bright light. As crepuscular animals, rabbits have evolved to see best in dim light. Albino rabbits will find it especially uncomfortable, though.
If you have an albino rabbit, keep this in mind. Keep lights in your home dim wherever possible. While your pet is exercising and playing outside, ensure she can regularly seek shade. If you have no trees in your yard, strategically place a cardboard box to one side.
You may also want to consider applying sunscreen to your albino rabbit. If you do, ensure it’s a child-friendly brand with high protection and no perfume. Pay particular attention to the ears.
As long as your pet can seek refuge from the sun, she’ll be perfectly happy. She’ll just need the occasional break. If in doubt, bring her inside for a few minutes. She’ll soon be raring to go again.
Do Red-Eyed Rabbits Have Good Eyesight?
Albino rabbits are not blind, but they do have slightly different vision to other rabbits. An albino rabbit has fewer rods in her eye than another rabbit. Rods are photoreceptors that send messages to the brain.
Like all rabbits, albino rabbits are skittish. Any breed of rabbit will always be on the lookout for potential danger. A 360-degree field of vision means that nothing escapes a rabbit’s attention.
You may notice your albino rabbit bobbing and weaving her head while looking at something. It almost looks like she is drunk. This is normal. Your pet is engaging in a behavior known as scanning.
If your pet starts to weave her head while looking at something, she’s attempting to process it. She has noticed something worthy of her attention, but isn’t sure what it is. The lack of rods in her eye makes the initial sighting slightly blurry.
By weaving her head, your rabbit is taking in the sight using both eyes. As discussed, this is called scanning. After a few seconds, your pet will be satisfied that she understands what she is seeing. She will then react appropriately.
Can I Breed an Albino Rabbit?
There are no legal restrictions on breeding an albino rabbit. The albino gene is not deemed harmful. There are also no ethical concerns about breeding such rabbits.
If a pure albino rabbit breeds, the baby rabbits will also be albino. This is because the gene becomes dominant when passed on. It will supersede any other genes that either parent rabbit possesses.
If you do not wish for albino baby rabbits, do not use an albino parent in the process. In turn, if you won’t be breeding an albino rabbit, have it spayed or neutered ASAP.
It’s also possible for two non-albino rabbits to produce an albino baby. This is because the albino gene can be recessive, and hide in rabbit DNA. If this happens, the baby will grow up healthy.
My Rabbit Has Red Eyes but Not White Fur
Red-eyed in rabbits is only related to albinism if the rabbit has white fur. Red eyes are caused by a medical condition known as hyperemia. Sometimes, hyperemia is referred to as red-eye.
Hyperemia is usually a result of inflammation in a rabbit’s eye. This is a result of an excess of blood flow. There could be any number of underlying causes for this, as Vet Stream explains. These include:
- Bacterial or fungal infection
- Trauma to the eye caused by an impact injury
- Overgrown teeth, which are placing pressure on the ocular socket
Hyperemia will often be accompanied by other symptoms. These could include:
- Excessive tear production
- Loss of hair around the eyes
- Lack of vision leading to uncharacteristic clumsiness
- Swelling in the eyelids
- Hunched posture
- Grinding of the teeth
- Lethargy and depression
If your rabbit shows signs of hyperemia, speak to a vet. The underlying issue could be serious, and may need urgent attention. Treatment will depend on what is causing the issue.
Frequently, antibiotics, ointment, or eye drops will be used to treat the problem. In the event of dental issues, the tooth may need to be removed. Your rabbit’s eyes may also need to be regularly reviewed going forward.
If the concern is ongoing, your rabbit may eventually lose her eyesight. Capturing hyperemia early minimizes this risk. Inspect your rabbit’s eyes and be vigilant about observing warning signs.
Why Do I Never See Albino Rabbits in the Wild?
Albino rabbits are less common in the wild than in domesticated homes. The rabbits that we keep as pets are different breeds to wild rabbits. Pet rabbit breeds all originate from Europe.
This means that albino rabbits are not released into the wild to breed. All the same, albino rabbits do exist. It’s rare but possible that two wild rabbits will have a recessive albino gene.
Unfortunately, life is tough for albino rabbits in the wild. Bright white fur is impossible to miss. This makes them easy for predators to spot. Also, they need to ensure they can escape the sun.
Albino rabbits spend more time hiding underground than out in the open. These animals will emerge when they need to eat or exercise. When done, they’ll immediately retreat back to safety.
If you have a rabbit with red eyes, there is nothing wrong with her. You could say that you have a special rabbit. While albino rabbits need some minor lifestyle considerations, they’re typical rabbits.
Just remember that a rabbit should only have red eyes if she has white fur. Any other instance merits a trip to the vet. This striking feature is limited to those with the albino gene.