CARE Miscellaneous

What Causes Ear Mites In Rabbits?

Ear Mites

Ear problems are quite common for rabbits. It does not matter what breed your rabbit is, a rabbit’s ears are sensitive. A rabbit’s ears have many folds in the skin, within the ears. Any small amount of dirt buildup can lead to an infection.

The Lop-eared breeds are actually more susceptible to ear infections and other ear problems than all other breeds of rabbits. The lop-eared breeds are more susceptible to infections due to a weak spot in their ear canal, which allows the ear to fold over.

The lop-eared breeds can also end up with a build-up of ear wax in the ear fold. This may cause the ear canal to expand and therefore form a pouch of built-up earwax.

However, it is important to understand that all rabbits can experience the same ear problems and issues, no matter the breed.

What is the Ear Mite For Rabbits Called?

Ear Mites

There is a technical term for the ear mites in a rabbit. This term is Psoroptes Cuniculi. This is a parasite that may be found in just the ears or it could spread to other areas of the rabbit also. These areas include the head, neck abdomen and genital area.

How do you identify ear mites in rabbits?

It is not too hard to see or identify the ear mites. They are large for mites and oval-shaped. The mite’s legs are quite short and they have long segmented suckers that are attached distally, away from the abdomen.

How are ear mites transmitted?

Ear Mites

Ear mites can be transmitted or transferred by an infected rabbit or by bedding, straw or debris that mites are sitting on. This is the reason that you must completely clean your rabbit’s cage or habitat or hutch. This must include any bedding, straw, dishes, water bottles or toys.

This cleaning should be done when the rabbit has been diagnosed with mites and the treatment has begun. If possible continue to clean the living area and all items inside each day until the problem has been eliminated.

Symptoms of Ear Mites and Types

Ear Mites

Let’s be clear, there are different symptoms between ear mites and ear infections.

The symptoms of ear mites will include, but may not be limited to:

Scratching: Ear mites cause itching and much discomfort. This will cause the rabbit to scratch at his or her ears more often. This will ultimately cause peeling or scaly skin in the area of the ears.

Hair Loss is a symptom that some rabbits may experience and others will not. Those that are affected by ear mites may have patches of hair missing which will cause sores to develop. These lesions may develop on more than just the area around the ears. The feet may be affected also, due to the scratching. The neck and belly area of the rabbit may also be affected. This could be caused in part by over-grooming.

Lesions are sores that may be caused by either the scratching or the excessive grooming that the rabbit does in an attempt to make itself feel better. A thick brown fluid substance is a disgusting appearing liquid that forms in response to the ear mites. This fluid is known as exudate. This brown fluid will easily be seen in the ear canal.

As the owner, you may notice that your rabbit has become head shy. The rabbit may even have a slightly more subdued demeanour and behaviour about him.

Checking the Rabbit’s Ears

Ear Mites

Most rabbit owners are likely to notice ear mites almost immediately. When the owner knows the rabbit, their behaviours and all those little nuances that are give-a-ways when a pet is not feeling well. When you know how your rabbit’s ears look when they are healthy, then the symptoms of something wrong will be quite evident to you.

As the owner, you should routinely check your rabbit’s ears. This can be done by doing a few simple actions,

  1. Make sure your rabbit is comfortable. You do not want to take the chance that your rabbit fights you as you are checking his or her ears. You also do not want him or her hurting themself by trying to get away.
  2. Start by checking the outer ear. There should be no scabs, lesions or crusty glops of anything on the ear. The canal is normal if there is a small amount of wax. The time to worry is if there is a build-up of ear wax.
  3. Check for lumps. Any type of swelling or lumps around or in the ear is abnormal. This is when you should take the rabbit to the Veterinarian as soon as you can.
  4. As always, if there is anything that you are unsure of, consult with the Veterinarian as soon as possible.

The life cycle of ear mites

Ear Mites

An ear mite will live for 21 days. The adult female will lay eggs in the earwax, or debris that is in the ear canal. The eggs will then hatch after 4 days and turn into larvae. After a couple of months, the larvae will then become adults.

How are ear mites treated?

Rabbits Smart

There are a number of options to treat the ear mites in your rabbit’s ears. Topical Ivermectin is the usual top choice. The mites do cause pain for the rabbit, it is highly suggested that the use of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory is also implemented to relieve some of the discomforts that the rabbit feels.

Do not force the crusty areas off from your rabbit’s ears. Rather use a Q-Tip and rub some mineral oil around the crusty area. The crusty areas will eventually fall off on their own also.

Another suggestion is to trim the claws on the back feet of the rabbit.

What if ear mites are not diagnosed and treated?

Ear Mites

Imagine how you feel when you have an infection in your ear. The pain becomes horrendous until you decide to visit your Physician and have the infection treated.

Untreated ear mites in a rabbit can become a debilitating issue for the rabbit. Weight loss, stomach issues and secondary infections are also possible.

The untreated condition can certainly lead to possible rupture of the tympanic membrane.

Getting treatment as soon as possible is always the best thing to do.

Can Rabbit ear mites affect other animals?

The ear mites of a rabbit are generally specific for the species. In other words, the rabbit ear mites will not transmit to a dog, just other rabbits.

Preventing Reinfestation

Ear Mites

Ear mites have the ability to live off the ‘host’ for up to 21 days. They will survive in the environment on debris or any article that is in the environment. This is why it is highly suggested that once an ear mite infestation is diagnosed, it is best to totally decontaminate the environment. This may have to be done multiple times in the 21 day period to be sure that all the ear mites have been eliminated.

There are some treatments that are suggested to be used every 14 days for a total of three treatments in the environment also.

Also, if you plan to introduce more rabbits to the area, please be sure to have them checked completely by the Veterinarian to ensure that the new rabbit(s) are free of any parasites.

Approximately one month following diagnosis and treatment a recheck should be done by the Veterinarian.

Cleaning Rabbit Ears

Ear Mites

This can be a highly debated topic when it comes to rabbits. For normal and healthy rabbits, there is no need to routinely clean the rabbit’s ears. Other than a routine check with the Veterinarian, once treatment has been completed, your furry friend should be back to his or her old self once again. Lop-eared rabbits or those prone to wax build-up in the canals are recommended for ear cleaning routinely.

Ear Mites in rabbits do not necessarily mean it is a bad thing. Ear mites are a relatively common problem for rabbits and other animals. The Veterinarian will determine the extent and give a prescription for treatment.

Routine cleaning of the hutch or rabbit’s environment is necessary for the 21 days after the treatment is given. This should be done more than one time. As the ear mites can survive on debris or other items in the living environment.

Continuation of cleaning and disinfecting is recommended for the lifespan of your rabbit. There is a possibility that your rabbit may not completely recover from the infestation and a second treatment is necessary.

Ear mites are not dangerous unless, of course, the diagnosis and treatment are delayed. There are some rabbit owners who do not bother maintaining a routine knowledge of how their rabbit is doing. Most owners can tell if there is something bothering their pets just by looking at them. These are the best owners.

For those times that it is not discovered that the rabbit has an ear mite infestation, the issues could become worse. If the infestation becomes severe, this could cause a rupture in the ear drum. At this point, your rabbit will need further treatment from the veterinarian. If the condition is still not noticed, diagnosed and treated, it could lead to permanent hearing loss for the rabbit. However, this outcome is very uncommon.

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