(or OMG what is that crud in his ear?!)
The first time I saw ear mites I freaked. Sweetie, one of my bucks came over for a meal and he had this dark crusty stuff down the inside of one ear.
After I calmed down a bit, I remembered reading about ear mites on a rabbit Facebook group. I looked it up and (thankfully) it turned out to be something very easy to identify and treat.
what to look for
Ear mites are tiny little buggers. They are small brown or black specks you may or may not be able to see (depends on how good your glasses are). You may see your rabbits scratching or shaking their ears. The real giveaway is the dark crusty scabs that develop in the ears (if you catch it early it might look more like red irritated ears or a build-up of dark wax). It’s also fairly common for a rabbit to have only one infected ear (though you will want to treat both ears just in case).
how to treat
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The simplest solution is to put a small drizzle of oil in the rabbit’s ears to smother the mites. I now keep a bottle of mineral oil in my “bunny basket,” but any kitchen oil (olive, vegetable, etc.) will do as well.
Related article: My 'Bunny Basket' - how to organize all the bits and bobs of rabbit care
Because the mites have a 21-day life cycle, you will need to treat your rabbit again. I would recommend oil in their ears once a week for a month or so (you want to catch any new little buggers as they hatch and move into the larvae stage). After each oil treatment, leave their ears alone. Don’t try to remove the scabs (that would seriously hurt and the scabs will fall off naturally as the rabbit heals).
I would also change out any bedding and disinfect food and water bowls each time you treat. (Ear mites are generally picked up from bedding (hay, straw, chips) or from contact with another infected rabbit.)
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Because my rabbits live in colony, if I see ear mites I treat all my bunnies with oil and I additionally treat the infected rabbit with Ivermectin. It can be administered orally, topically, or by injection (every 10-14 days for two or three applications, depending on who you talk to). I use the oral paste (it’s apple flavored) and give a rice-size dot per 4-5 pounds of rabbit. (Sweetie is about eight pounds and gets two rice-sized dots that I slip in the side of his mouth. I have all the fun.)
It’s very important that you treat an infected rabbit (and any potentially exposed rabbits). Regularly check your rabbits and look for scratching or ear shaking. Ear mites are certainly uncomfortable for them, but they will eventually cause serious inflammation and infection (and eventual death).
Keep an eye on your rabbits and catch it early! It’s a simple problem that’s easily treatable.
Related article: How to Pick a Healthy Rabbit - take them home healthy!