Our rabbits have adorably big ears which twitch depending on how they are feeling. However, it is quite a complicated organ. It is made up of 3 sections: outer (flap & outer canal), middle (drum & eustachian tube) and inner (cochlea & inner canals). The inner canals lead into the brain so any ear disease can have detrimental impact if left untreated.
Due to the sensitivity, it is important for owners to keep their rabbit’s ears in check. On a regular basis, look out for signs of fur loss, redness, swell, crustiness or wax accumulation. You can also take a sniff into their ears for sour or unpleasant odor. In some cases, the rabbit may appear well but shakes their head or scratches their ears more than usual. These are all warning signs to look for!
In Singapore’s tropical climate, it is common for our rabbits to develop outer ear infections due to mites, yeasts and bacteria. These conditions require medical treatment and it is best to consult with your rabbit-savvy vet. We do not recommend home-care remedies such as mineral oil, apple cider vinegar and over-the-counter ear drops unless suggested by the vet.
In severe cases where your rabbit is losing appetite or grinding their teeth due to discomfort, you may need a thorough investigation into the middle to inner ear. A common cause is vestibular disorder which can result in a head tilt. This condition is often caused by Encephalitozoon cuniculi and if untreated, can cause a rabbit to lose balance and orientation.
Another potential cause of middle to inner ear infection is abscess. Pasturella, Streptoccus and Pseudomonas are common aerobic bacterias that can brew under the skin, causing an accumulation of thick pus. You may feel the lumpy abscess but it’s best to seek immediate help from a rabbit-savvy vet. Antibiotics will be necessary and in most cases, surgical intervention is required.
Most healthy rabbits will clean their ears using their hinds to dislodge and front to wipe. However, rabbits that are less mobile (splay, arthritic etc) or has tinier ears may need help. You can assist by massaging their ear base and swirling a cotton bud to pick up any loose debri. Do not push or drip any liquid into their canal unless prescribed by a vet. In addition, a bi-annual dose of topical ‘Revolution’ is also a good way to prevent mite infection.
We hope the above sharing can help you learn more about our rabbit’s ears and their potential diseases. For more details, click here: https://rabbit.org/journal/4-11/ear.html. Let’s do our best to keep our rabbit healthy!