Ear Mites in Rabbits
Ear mite infestation in rabbits is caused by the parasite Psoroptes cuniculiis. They may be found in only one ear, or in both, and in some cases may spread to the surrounding areas – the head, neck, abdomen, and genital regions. The main symptom is skin scales on the inner ear, which turn into larger, thicker crusted lesions with surrounding hair loss. If left untreated, the lesions can become infected, putting the inner ear at risk of infection and subsequent hearing loss.
No specific breed or age is at higher risk, but the risk of acquiring ear mites can be increased with exposure to affected rabbits, such as in pet stores, shelters, or multi-rabbit households. The risk of infection can also be increased by exposure to mite eggs that have been lain in grass, straw, or wood chip bedding material.
Symptoms and Types
- Mild to moderate itching around the ear, head, and neck
- Intense itching (more common) primarily located around the ears, head, and neck; occasionally generalized
- Head shaking and scratching
- Affected areas may become extremely painful
- Thick, brown to beige crusty exudate in the ear canal
- Occasionally, brown to beige crusting and itching occur on the ears and feet only
- Hair loss and peeling of skin around the ears
- Signs of ear infection may also occur
- Mites and lesions may extend to the face, neck, abdomen, perineal region, and even feet via grooming
Your veterinarian will first want to differentiate between other forms of infections and causes of scratching, but if mites are present, they will clearly be distinguished by your veterinarian. They may or may nor be visible to the naked eye, but the symptoms of Psoroptes cuniculiis infection are generally distinguishable as such. Your doctor will perform an examination of the ear, both by visual inspection and with specialized tools. An examination of exudates, the fluid that exudes/oozes from injured tissue, will be taken by ear swab and analyzed by microscope. The blood and urine may be also analyzed, usually with normal results.