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Bunny Rabbit Earmites

2011 May 26
Inside the rabbit's ear, layers of paper-thin skin cells irritated by earmites look and feel like a wasp's nest inside the ear

The red sore bunny rabbit ear lining with layer upon layer of paper-thin skin layers

Why Do My Rabbit’s Ears Hurt?

“Doc, he seemed fine up until a few days ago. Now he scratches at his ears and holds them funny,” said Frankie, the rabbit’s dad.

The young rabbit looked miserable!  His sad little brown eyes looked up at Doc Truli while his little rabbit whiskers wiggled as he checked the Doc out.  Frankie was optimistic that Doc Truli might have a snack in her pocket!

Doc gently picked Frankie up – being conscious to keep a hand on the middle of his back so he would not be able to bend, or break, his back in case of a panicked kicking escape attempt.  Frankie remained calm with the slow, gentle movements of the Doc’s experienced touch.

Tru Tip:

Support a rabbit’s body when you pick him or her up.  Especially, keep their back against your chest or under a firm, gentle hand.  A frightened, panicked rabbit will violently jump to escape.  Rabbits have been known to instantly break their own back when they jump so hard to escape!

Frankie lay quietly in Doc’s left elbow crook for the physical exam.  His body seemed fine.  The ears, however, were a whole other story.

Earmites are Treated Differently in Rabbits Than Cats & Dogs

“We were going to try and apply earmite drops format he pet store or clean out the ears, but it looked so bad, we decided we better come to the vet’s,” said Frankie’s mom.

“That’s a great decision,” said Doc Truli,”you can’t clean the infection out of rabbit ears like you would on a cat or dog.  The bun ears are so fragile, they bleed and scar tremendously if you actually touch the fragile skin layers.”

We confirmed the infection by magnifying a small sample of the crusted skin under the microscope.  Then we discussed treatment.

Rabbit Earmite Treatment

We have prescription medication we can give as a subcutaneous injection, or topical drops.  Whatever medication we choose, it has to work for 2-4 weeks because earmites are little arthropod six-legged insects that lay eggs that hatch out in 2 weeks.  So treating adult earmites only today, and not in 2 weeks will mean that the earmites will regrow.

Thick crust of earmites and skin filling a rabbit's large ear canal

Do not pick or physically remove this crust!

Also, rabbits have so much dead skin and flakey crust in their reaction to the ermines, that  those little flakes scatter in their environment and they can reinfect themselves with the earmites!  You need to clean your rabbit’s environment, especially his cage and bedding, DAILY, for a month.  You can wipe the clean cage with dilute vinegar and water as a mild disinfectant.  Do not use strong chemicals in a rabbit’s cage.

The sores in the ears will start to go away on the own.  Most importantly, do not rub or ice at the bunny ears, or they will hurt and scar terribly!

“You can’t clean the infection out of rabbit ears like you would on a cat or dog.  The bun ears are so fragile, they bleed and scar tremendously if you actually touch the fragile skin layers,” says Doc Truli.

Earmites are very contagious between animals.  If you have a cat, ferret, dog, or other rabbits, bring them to the veterinarian for earmite treatment, too.  Otherwise the animals will continue to pass the insects between each other and the infection will not cure.

Side Note from Doc Truli: WordPress apparently thinks “earmites” should be autocorrected to “ermines.”  That sentence was difficult to type because the computer kept changing every word to “ermines!”  Seriously?  People write about “ermines” that often? Hmmm….

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