Ear Infections in Rabbits
Rabbits are wonderful pets! They are smart, social, and friendly. Rabbits in the US are housed both indoors and outdoors. Depending on their living situation, there are various types of infections that affect the ears or cause similar symptoms. Continue reading for more information about symptoms, causes, and treatments of ear infections in rabbits!
Clinical Symptoms of Rabbit Ear Infections
Rabbits with ear infections will often have one or multiple symptoms, including:
- Head Tilt: tilting their head to one side
- Floppy ear: the affected ear may flop down if they normally have upright ears
- Pain leading to scratching: itching or scratching at the affected ear
- Neurologic symptoms: severe head tilt, seizures, circling (walking in circles), rolling, loss of balance, and abnormal eye movements
- Odor or discharge: blood, black debris, thick white or yellow soupy discharge, or dried white to yellow material in the ears
Common Causes of Ear Infections in Rabbits
Bacterial infections are common causes of ear infections in rabbits. Often they have an infection in the upper respiratory system that moves into the middle or inner ear via tubes that connect the areas. Pasteurella, Staphyloccocus, Streptococcus, E. coli, Pseudomonas, Proteus, and Bordetella are all commonly isolated bacteria in rabbit ear infections.
Parasites like ear mites can cause ear infections in rabbits. These mites burrow into the skin of the ear canal and ear flap and are painful and itchy. The ear mites can live for nearly a month in the environment, so you need to be sure you thoroughly clean your rabbit’s environment to prevent reinfection. Treatment often consists of 2 rounds of medication to help treat any mites that may have been in the environment. Since this is painful, pain medications and/or anti-inflammatory medications are also often prescribed.
A protozoal organism, E. caniculi, can cause similar symptoms of an inner or middle ear infection. These symptoms include head tilt, rolling, seizures, and even paralysis. This infection can also affect the kidneys and eyes. E. caniculi can also live in the environment for a month, so thorough cleaning of your rabbit’s area is necessary to prevent reinfection.
Parasitic infection with a raccoon parasite, Baylisascaris procyonis, can also cause neurologic symptoms that are similar to those of rabbits with inner and middle ear infections. This is spread via raccoon feces. Rabbits become infected by ingesting the parasite on grass, other food, or drinking contaminated water.
Treatments for Rabbit Ear Infections
As you have learned, parasites, various bacteria, and protozoal organisms can all cause ear infections or similar symptoms. Each cause has a very different treatment. Your rabbit may need antibiotics, dewormers, topical parasite control, and/or pain medications. Treatment can take weeks to be effective. Always contact a vet if you think your rabbit has an ear infection.
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