Ear problems in rabbits

Just like cats and dogs, our rabbits can suffer with ear problems too. Signs are often very subtle and can be easily missed if we aren’t looking closely. It can be a good idea to get your bunny used to you checking their ears from a young age. This means that if they do develop an issue, they should be willing to at least let you have a look.

Which rabbits are affected by ear problems?

Any rabbit can develop issues with their ears, but some are more often affected than others. Lop-eared breeds (those with hanging ears) tend to suffer from more ear problems due to the reduced airflow within their ears. We also find that older bunnies, who are less able to groom and keep themselves clean, can be prone to waxy build-ups and chronic ear infections.

What symptoms can be expected?

  • Scratching at the ears
  • An abundance of wax and debris within the ear canals
  • A flattened ear and/or head tilt
  • Reduced movement or appetite.

Remember though, some rabbits won’t show any signs at all. This is because, as a ‘prey’ species, rabbits are hard-wired to not act weak in case a predator is about. Due to this, we need to be tuned in to any minor changes and check those ears on a regular basis.

How can I treat ear problems?

Your vet will examine the ears and determine what is causing the signs. Possible ear issues include: Ear mites (Psoroptes cuniculi), bacterial infections and ear base abscesses.

Treatment will be tailored to the individual rabbit but usually consists of ear cleaners and antibiotics.

What if things aren’t improving?

Sometimes, we need to be more pro-active in our diagnosis and treatment. Some rabbits will need to be sedated or anaesthetized in order for us to flush their ears and have a better look. It may also be necessary to perform some diagnostic imaging, such as a CT scan. Thankfully, most ear issues can be treated promptly, without much intervention.