Rabbits are very delicate animals that are susceptible to many health conditions. Some of these are more serious than others but it is vital to keep a close eye on your pet to ensure he stays in good health. One of the most frequently seen issues with rabbits is ear mites, but how do rabbits get ear mites in the first place?
Rabbits may pick up ear mites from several sources. Mites are most commonly picked up by contact with another infected rabbit however even food or bedding may carry mites.
Detecting ear mites in rabbits early on is imperative. If left untreated, the mites may cause sores which can quickly become infected.
Can Indoor Rabbits Get Ear Mites?
Many people believe that an indoor rabbit is not prone to picking up anywhere near as many health conditions as a bun that is kept outdoors. But this is strictly not the case. Ear mites can be contracted if your rabbit’s food or bedding has been affected with mites.
Of course, your local pet supplier and the top brands will take every precaution to make sure that their products are mite-free and safe for your bunny but there is always the risk of contamination.
Furthermore, you have to consider that just because your rabbit lives indoors, you will be going outside and this means that there is a potential for you to transmit mites to your pet. The mite that infects the rabbit’s ears is known as Psoroptes cuniculi and while humans can carry these mites, they cannot be affected by them.
If you have more than one rabbit, which many owners do, there is a very significant risk of bunny A passing mites onto bunny B once an infection occurs. For this reason, if you notice mites on one of your buns, you should immediately check the others.
While you may think that mites wouldn’t cause huge problems for rabbits, this isn’t the case. The problem starts with inflammation and irritation around the ears. The rabbit will likely scratch and mess with the affected area but this means that any infections can then be spread to other parts of his body.
When this happens, you may begin to notice symptoms like fur loss and skin infections. This can be incredibly uncomfortable for the rabbit and in some severe cases, can be unthinkably painful. Rabbits are quite good at hiding their pain but they will show signs of it. For example, a bunny who is in pain will likely stop eating and there is a risk that gut stasis can result from this. If your rabbit gets this condition, it could kill them so it is vital to address the underlying mite problem before anything more serious occurs.
Even if the infections do not spread to other parts of the body, the ear mites will cause problems in the local area. For example, if the mites get into the ear, this can cause inflammation in the inner ear, particularly around the ear drum. This can become perforated and the result may be a nasty ear infection.
More seriously, because the ear is located so close to your bunny’s brain, there are other things that can be affected. Your rabbit may struggle with balance and coordination as well as suffering hearing loss. In the worst cases, rabbits with ear mites could experience seizures.
Detecting a case of rabbit ear mites can be done in several ways. You can look for the mites but we will dive into this in a little more detail later on. Some of the first symptoms you might see could include:
- Head tilt is a very serious sign of illness and will likely be accompanied by a loss of appetite. If you notice this, you should take your rabbit to the vet immediately.
- Discharge which is brown or yellow in color.
- The rabbit may shake its head to relieve irritation.
- The skin around the affected area will appear sore, inflamed, and scaly.
What Do Rabbit Ear Mites Look Like?
If your rabbit has never had ear mites before, it can be tricky to tell whether what present is in fact a mite infestation. But once you know what you are looking for, the mites will become much easier to identify.
These tiny mites are only just big enough to be seen by the naked eye. If you have poor eyesight, it would be possible to miss them so it may be useful to use glasses, a magnifying glass or some other form of visual aid.
The rabbit ear mite has a black or brown color and is typically oval-shaped. They have long suckers and short legs. Under a microscope, they are certainly a terrifying looking creature!
How Can You Get Rid Of Ear Mites at Home?
If you suspect that your rabbit has ear mites, the first thing you will need to do is check him over. Being careful and ensuring that your rabbit is comfortable will encourage him to remain still while you perform the check.
Upon confirming that ear mites are the cause of your rabbit’s problems, there are several spot-on treatments that can be used. These medications are applied to the infected area and will kill off the mites. However, since there may be eggs present, it is important to ensure that treatment continues up to six weeks.
Due to the infection, your rabbit may have developed crusts and sores around the ears and the back of the neck. While it can be tempting to remove these, this can cause pain for your pet and should be avoided. As the infection begins to clear, these crusts will naturally fall off to reveal healthier skin underneath.
It can also be useful to keep your bunny’s nails trimmed. This is important at the best of times but during a mite infestation, it can prevent the rabbit from cutting its skin when scratching at affected areas.
While you should be able to treat the condition at home using topical treatments, there may be times when a trip to the vet is unavoidable. Incases where secondary infections have occured, you may need to have your vet prescribe antibiotics and other medications to get things under control.
How Long Does It Take to Get Rid Of Ear Mites in Rabbits?
Even with treatment, there is a possibility of reinfection, so it is essential to complete the full course of treatment. As we have discussed, it can take up to six weeks of applying topical medications to get things under control. Typically, this will be done in three batches, with the medication being applied two weeks apart.
The mites are able to survive for up to 21 days when not living on the host. This means that, after treatment, you should fully clean and decontaminate your rabbit’s enclosure and any areas that he regularly plays.