Elder Bun: Runny eyes, possible tooth issue

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Akzholedent

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At the end of July, I took Ellie into the vet to get her Meloxicam dosage increased (.7 ml twice a day for arthritis), and the vet pointed out how Ellie's eye is watering constantly. She stated that it was probably due to tooth spurs, and she recommended getting them filed.

Normally, I'm all for following vet advice, but Ellie is 9 years old, and the risk of the anesthesia has me worried. This week, I've noticed her other eye is watering now as well, and it has a bit of white discharge in the tears...I know I need to make some sort of decision for her well-being... Other than that, she seems to be a rather healthy rabbit. In 2019, she was put under anesthesia to remove an abcess-lump from her shoulder, and she did really well, but that was three years ago. She eats her hay like a champion. She has a lot of sensitive tummy issues, so she just gets hay and a small amount of timothy pellets each day. (No more cookies..)

For background, she and her twin brother were bred as "meat rabbits." They were both 9 pounds when they reached full-size. Butterscotch passed away in 2020 with cancer on his jaw.

While she has long surpassed her "life expectancy," I don't want to give up on her. I don't want her to be miserable, but I don't want to put her at risk either... I'm not sure what I should do... Mom and Dad gave me a hard time for spending over $800 for a surgery for Butterscotch, which extended his life by another month... looking back, I think that was a horribly tough month for him, but I wasn't ready to say goodbye, you know? It was selfish, I know. 😞 I want to do things right with Ellie, or as right as I can. Any advice is greatly appreciated. ❤️
 

Moonshadow

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If I were in your situation, I would go through with having the teeth spurs filed down despite possible risks... it’s way better than the alternative and your bun may live quite a few more years more.

I don’t talk about what happened with my first bunny Bandit much but he didn’t pass in the peaceful, painless way (he passed at age 8 when I was 13 or 14). His death is why I didn’t get another bunny till over 10 years later in 2021, I’m 26 now.

My first bun I adopted from my 4H bunny club when I was about 6 (around 2002 or 2003) He was about one year old, neutered, and I was told he was from a family who bred meat bunnies and he was most likely a dwarf hotot mix. We kept him mostly in his cage the first year then experimented with free roaming and he was free roam ever since in our house.

Fast forward to him around age 6-7 (2007 or 2008) his eyes started to chronically tear up. We took him to a normal vet (never knew there were specific rabbit vets needed for bunnies). The vet gave us antibiotics to give him and told us if it didn’t stop it was probably a chronic issue. We gave him the treatment and it didn’t help and we trusted the vet with their idea of it being a chronic issue and nothing could be done. We never knew bunny’s teeth grew constantly, no one had ever told us. His front teeth always were the perfect length when I looked at them.

A year or two (2008 or 2009) later (he was age 8) I noticed one of his cheeks was hard and getting bigger. We took him to the same vet again. They examined him and told us it was an abscess and they’d need to lance it and drain it. They took him in, did the procedure of shaving his cheek, opening it- no pus came out (I know why now but didn’t back then), and stitched it up. His cheek was the same and about a week or two later, he started to lose his balance and couldn’t stand up. At that point we took him to another veterinary office in another town because we stopped trusting our vet. Unlike our vet, they told us they didn’t usually look at rabbits but said they’d look at him anyway since it sounded like he needed to be looked over quickly.

The new vet was more knowledgeable (and trustworthy) than our first vet but they only had bad news. Their diagnosis was that my bunny’s back teeth had most likely grown into his cheek which caused the abscess. Warning signs for this were eyes tearing up with a milky discharge constantly which were likely from molar spurs that continued growing. Him losing balance and being unable to hold himself up meant he had an infection that had likely already reached his brain. There was nothing that vet could do but give antibiotics and pain meds. I don’t remember if euthanasia was discussed, it was too long ago.

In the end we took him home, each of us held him many times the following days and weeks. He ended up passing right after being held and petted for an hour on my mom’s lap on March 5th. She put him back down on his little towel/blanket bed and he stopped breathing about 5 seconds later. We buried him in a box with his towel bed.

Now over 10 years later with my current bun (Minyeong), we have a personal exotic vet we will take him to for the rest of his life. We never want anything like that to happen again with any bunny we own and I do a ton of personal research now to be aware of different things to look out for.

I just want to tell you my personal experience so you can be aware. Undergoing anesthesia for any bunny especially elder buns can be incredibly dangerous but death by tooth growth is a very slow and painful way to go and I wouldn’t want any bunny to suffer the way mine did in 2008 or 2009. He never showed any of his pain...
 

Ampee

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If she is eating hay "like a champion" I wouldn't say that it's a tooth issue for sure. If you are worried about the anesthesia, I would go with an Xray first, maybe they can do that without anesthesia, and that could also reveal some other stuff that could cause runny eye.
If nothing comes up with the xray, you can still tell the vet to check the teeth.


Also if it's a teeth problem why did the other eye started to get runny as well? (Ok, if she is so unlucky that she has spurs at both sides then it make sense...)
But this is just my thinking/opinion, and also I'm no expert in Rabbit medical conditions. (I'm just living with two bunnies for 7 years now)

One thing for sure "I'm calling the vet as soon as they open." is the best thing you could do for your Bunny :) It's best to get to the bottom of this as soon as you can.
 

rabbit_friend

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Both of my bunnies had surgery in Spring of 2021. One was 8 years old (or older) and needed a bladder stone removed. The other was almost 10 and needed a lump removed from behind his front leg and got his teeth filed too.They both did great, but we drove 2 hours to go to the specialist exotics vet that we've used for over 10 years. She always does a great job with anesthesia and surgery and I knew that would give them the best chance. It is worth it to find someone very experienced with rabbits and with good outcomes. We have also gone to the University Veterinary school before (also 2 hours away), because they always take their time and do everything by best practices since they’re training new vets!

Anesthesia is always a risk, but it helps to know your bunny was okay with it once before. There is no way ever of knowing beforehand whether the risk will be “worth it.” Butterscotch could have lived happily for months or years after his surgery instead of just one month—there is no way to know in advance, so you just have to do the best you can with the information and finances you have. I've had two rabbits with thymoma and the first was treated with radiation. That was really expensive and he “only” lived another 8 months (my family gave me a hard time too, even though I'm over 50!). But I couldn’t have known that in advance, and they were pretty healthy months. The second bunny I treated with prednisolone instead and she lived 2 years. Would the first one have lived that long if I'd done that with him? No one can know. All you can do is do all the research possible and make the most informed guess.

Did the vet tell you how high his spurs were? I've had a couple of bunnies with teary eyes (including white discharge) and none of them were tooth spurs. They were mostly from upper respiratory or sinus infections. In all cases, the vet prescribed antibiotic eye drops. As already suggested, I would get some xrays (chest and head). My vet can sometimes do those without sedation, or with mild sedation, since my bunnies are used to being handled, but sedation will give the sharpest pictures.
 

Akzholedent

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Yeah, I'm sure the vet will double check those things before putting Ellie under. They're pretty good about that at our office. Since my vet will be out of town, i won't be able to get Ellie in until her appointment on the 29th. I hope it's something as easy as eyedrops, but since we know this expense is coming up (the office estimated $250), my husband and I are prepping for it.
 

NorthWind

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Usually, rabbits do not eat if they have spurs, because it hurts.
Mine had discharge, and it was because of her dental abscess.
 

JBun

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Eye discharge isn't likely to be from spurs, but from irritation to the eye(various causes) itself, or from the tear duct being obstructed. Like from debris, infection, a mass/abscess, or overgrown tooth roots pressing in on the duct. There are other non eye related causes also, like upper respiratory issues, allergies or lung/heart issues.

Overgrown tooth roots is a likely cause in older rabbits, and there's not always a clear cut or good way of dealing with it. The vet can try burring the teeth down to see if that helps, but sometimes all that can be done is just manage the runny eye as much as possible, with eye drops and wiping off around the eye. But you won't know until the vet gets a closer look at the issue.

I would expect te vet will check the tear ducts to see if they're blocked, and hopefully can do xrays with minimal or no sedation. Then assess things from there.
 

JBun

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Scan is better.

Yes, but can be very expensive and not always affordable for some. It can also depend on a person's location and what the available resources are. Xrays are almost always available, scans may require making a long trip to get to, especially if someone lives in a rural location.
 

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