Ear mites are a pretty common problem for rabbits. Most infections aren’t serious, thankfully, and can be dealt with easily at home. If left untreated, the problem will get worse and can lead to serious infections, including meningitis and eventually death. Even a minor infection is a pain for a rabbit to deal with, so it’s better to get it taken care of as soon as you can.
Ear Mites in Rabbits: Recognize the Problem
It’s almost impossible to catch ear mites in rabbits before they start. They burrow deep into the ear canal, and there are virtually no visible signs of them. You may notice your rabbit is scratching or shaking their head a lot, but may not be able to actually see anything inside the ears.
Eventually, as the infestation grows, the mites will start to create scabs which will spread to the outer part of the ear. At this point, it’s pretty uncomfortable for the rabbit, but not dangerous as long as you act quickly to take care of it. It will look like a brown, waxy buildup at first. Shortly after, it will become scab-like or flaky, and your rabbit will be pretty unhappy.
Separate and Clean
Ear mites spread quickly, so get the rabbit out of there! Place the rabbit with the infection in a separate hutch and clean, clean, clean! You’ll want to disinfect everything you can, toss out the bedding and keep their permanent living area as clean as possible. The treatment should be done in an area where no other rabbits are going to be. Mites can survive for up to three weeks away from a host, so anywhere the infected rabbit has been is a hot spot.
As the breeder or owner, you also need to be vigilant in making sure you wash your hands after handling the infected rabbit. Mites can transfer from rabbit to people to rabbit, and then you’d have to start all over with treatment!
Ear mites in rabbits are common, so having a reliable home remedy for them is important. It’s actually quite simple to do, so long as you’re able to keep the rabbit from re-infecting themselves. There are a few easy ways to take care of the mites.
The most common natural home remedy for ear mites is oil. You can use most oils, like coconut or even vegetable oil. Just add a few drops at a time and the oil will smother the mites. Only use two or three drops, since more will be unhelpful and could make the rabbit uncomfortable. This method does take some time, and it’s vital to keep the rabbit separated until the infection is gone. Tea tree oil can help as well, to sooth the itching and help prevent infections from the scratches.
Do this treatment for two days, then every-other day for two weeks. Do it two more times — once at 21 days from the first treatment, and once at 28 days to make sure the mites won’t come back.
If you aren’t comfortable putting oil in your rabbit’s ear, you can also use honey. Mix three teaspoons of honey and three ounces of water, then coat the inside of the ear. This requires more than just a few drops of oil, but it should be followed on the same schedule. The honey is also a natural antibiotic and will help soothe irritated skin.
As with any common ailment, prevention is the best medicine. Ear mites in rabbits occur and spread most rapidly in overcrowded conditions, so don’t try to house too many animals in one area. Another big factor for ear mites seems to be stress. The animals get stressed out, and all of a sudden ear mite infections start popping up left and right.
Straw bedding tends to harbor mites, so switch to a different kind if that’s what you use. You can also pre-treat the animals with a gentle mixture either once a week or whenever you do other basic grooming, like nail trimming. A mix of mineral oil with a few drops of apple cider vinegar, and a few drops of a healing essential oil, like tea tree oil, can prevent mites from establishing an infection.
More than anything, remember that a mite infection is not pleasant for a rabbit to go through. Making sure it’s taken care of is an animal health and safety issue. Give your rabbits a little extra love — they’ll thank you for it!