Ear Mites In Rabbits: Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Parasitic ear mites are highly contagious, and once they colonise your rabbit's ears, they can spread to other areas of their body, including their neck and abdomen. If left untreated, ear mite infestations can cause lesions to develop in the inner ear, and when these lesions get infected with bacteria, your rabbit could develop hearing loss. Rabbits can pick up ear mites from straw bedding, grass, woodchip and other rabbits, and all breeds of rabbit are susceptible to ear mites. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach:
Symptoms of ear mites in rabbits include the following:
- Itchy ears, which your rabbit will try and ease by shaking their head
- Brown discharge in the ear canal
- Ear pain, which can present as loss of interest in food and hiding in their hutch
- Hair loss around the ears
- Crusts forming in the inner ear and around the entry to the ear canal
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will examine your rabbit's ears using an otoscope, which allows them to see deep into the ear canal. Your vet may be able to see mites when examining your rabbit's ears, but they're not always visible to the naked eye, so a swab of the discharge will be taken and analysed for the presence of mites.
Anti-parasitic drugs will be prescribed for your rabbit, and if their inner ear is infected, they will also require antibiotics. Painkillers can be prescribed if your rabbit seems to be in significant pain. As the mites die off, your rabbit's ears will begin to heal, but complete healing can take a few weeks. Your vet will show you how to keep your rabbit's ears clean during the healing period when crusts start to come away from the skin.
To prevent reinfection, you'll need to treat any other rabbits you have, even if they are not showing signs of having ear mites. Your rabbit's living environment will also have to be thoroughly cleaned and bedding should be replaced. Any brushes or other grooming tools you use on your rabbit will have to be disinfected or replaced. At the end of your rabbit's treatment period, your vet will swab their ears again to ensure the ear mites have been eradicated.
If your rabbit is displaying any of the symptoms associated with ear mites, schedule an appointment with a vet as soon as possible to minimise your rabbit's discomfort.