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Ear Infection in Rabbits

Ear Infection in Rabbits

               Rabbits are known for those long ears, but what happens if your rabbit gets an ear infection? Let’s look at causes, symptoms and treatment for otitis in rabbits!

               A number of things can cause ear problems in rabbits. The number one cause is bacterial infection.  Common bacteria include Pasteurella multocida, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Streptococcus spp.  Other potential causes for ear problems include yeast (Candida), ear mites, trauma, foreign object in the ear and tumors.  Lop eared rabbits may be more prone to ear infection as their floppy ears lack proper drainage and air flow.

               If your rabbit has an ear infection, you may see the following symptoms: scratching at the ears, discharge/fluid or waxy debris in the ear canals, holding the affected ear down, head tilt, and, in severe cases of otitis, rabbits may experience loss of balance, dizziness, falling or rolling to one side (torticollis) or circling. Rabbits may also stop eating and become lethargic when they have an ear infection.

               Diagnosing an ear infection usually requires a trip to the veterinarian. It’s important to determine the underlying cause so proper treatment can be used. The veterinarian will examine the ear with an otoscope and may take a sample of fluid or debris from the ear to examine under the microscope or to send for culture. It is also important to rule out other causes of neurologic symptoms such as parasites, tumor or seizures.

               Once an infection is confirmed and the type of infection identified, treatment usually involves topical antibiotic or anti-fungal ear drops or medication to treat ear mites if they are the underlying cause.  Rabbits may also receive pain medication.  The ear canal may need to be gently flushed with warm saline or other solutions to remove fluid and debris from the canal. Some cases are also treated with oral antibiotics.  Severe cases may require hospitalization with IV fluid and nutritional support if your rabbit is experiencing neurological symptoms and is unable to eat or move about normally.  In rare cases, surgery may be needed if there is severe damage to the ear drum or ear canal or if there is a tumor or foreign object in the ear canal.

               Most simple ear infection can be treated but it’s important to take your rabbit to the vet if he or she is displaying signs of ear infection to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment, particularly if your rabbit has a head tilt or torticollis.  Don’t try to treat your rabbit at home without professional advice as otitis may be made worse by attempting to clean or treat the ear if the ear drum is ruptured.

               This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.