Ear Mites in Rabbits: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition and Anatomy courses for several years. He has a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from Furman University and a M.S. in Dietetics & Nutrition from Florida International University. He is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)

Ear mites are a type of parasite that can affect various animals, including rabbits. This lesson will provide the reader with information regarding the common symptoms and treatment for rabbits infected with ear mites.

Twinkle Gets Sick

Olivia is a 5-year-old who recently got a pet rabbit for her birthday. Olivia has wanted a pet rabbit for a very long time, and loves playing with her new furry friend whom she named Twinkle. Since Olivia's backyard is fenced in, Olivia's mom allows her to bring Twinkle in the backyard to play. Each day, Olivia and Twinkle play together outside for a couple of hours.

Recently, Olivia has noticed that Twinkle has been itching her right ear a lot, and that there is a brown crust growing in this ear as well. Olivia told her mom about these symptoms, and her mom called a veterinarian to schedule an appointment. At the vet's office, Twinkle was taken through several tests to see what was causing the problems with her ear. After going over all the results, the vet told Olivia and her mom that Twinkle had ear mites in her right ear.

Ear mites (scientific name Psoroptes cuniculi) are an eight-legged parasite that can infect the ears of certain animal hosts including rabbits, sheep, horses, and goats (this lesson will focus solely on ear mites in rabbits). Rabbits that live in close proximity to other potentially infected rabbits, such as in pet stores or houses that have multiple pet rabbits, are at increased risk for being infected with ear mites. Rabbits may also become infected by these arachnids by playing or resting in grass or other materials that may contain the eggs of these mites (such as grass used for bedding or found outside, like when Twinkle played in the backyard).

Rabbits who spend a lot of time near other rabbits, such as in pet stores, are at increased risk for being infected with ear mites.
rabbits

Symptoms

The symptoms of ear mites in rabbits include:

  • Itchy ears
  • Constant shaking of the head
  • Brownish crust in the ear
  • Hair loss on the ears

If a rabbit with ear mites does not receive proper treatment, these symptoms may progress into hearing loss. The irritation may also spread to other areas of the body, such as the neck, stomach, groin areas of the rabbit.

Treatment

Treatment for ear mites in rabbits often includes the administration of ivermectin, which is an anti-parasitic medication that is also used to treat head-lice in humans. Ivermectin will work to kill all the ear mites that have infected a rabbit, and once the ear mites have been destroyed, the itching and crust in the ears will begin to go away.

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