EAR MITES CAUSES AND REMEDYS

Rabbits kept outside in hutches or on the ground in rabbit tractors are most likely soon or later to get ear mites. Even in wire hutches you can have a ear mite infestation in your rabbitry.

Ear mites are the most common of all health issues you will have to deal with raising your homestead rabbits. Ear mites are not serious, but if left untreated, an ear mite infestation can lead to a secondary bacterial infection which can extend to the middle and inner ear causing head tilt, loss of balance, wobbliness (head tilt) and even fatal meningitis. Because the mites may eventually penetrate the eardrum and destroy the rabbits equilibrium so that it staggers and can’t find the food or water crocks. In advanced cases, the ear mites can leave the ears and expand their populations across the rabbit’s body. In particular the head, neck, belly and the skin regions around the anus, genitals and the legs and feet, resulting in severe, generalized body scratching and widespread skin redness, trauma-induced hair loss, widespread scabbing (skin sores) and dermatitis.

Being a contagious parasitic skin disease, rabbit ear mites are generally spread from rabbit to rabbit by direct skin contact between infected and non-infected rabbits. Non-infested rabbits can also contract the mites through contact with the hutch of ear-mite-infested rabbits. Mite transmission from rabbit to rabbit is generally greater in conditions whereby large numbers of rabbits are being kept in close proximity to one other wild rabbit warrens, colony setting, overcrowded hutches, rabbit rescue shelters, pet shops, rabbit breeding facilities, commercial meat or Angora rabbit farming facilities.

The ear mites start by invading the deeper regions of the rabbit’s external ear canal, living deep down in the canal where they can not be seen by the rabbit breeder. Because of this, early infestations of ear mites are often missed by rabbit owners. Because the outer ear flap that the breeder can see often looks OK during the early stages and yet the ear canal is infested deeper down. Owners may only notice occasional symptoms of ear-scratching and head-shaking by the rabbit during these early stages. As the rabbit ear mites multiply in number, the ear mite infestation expands and extends from the ear canal of the rabbit onto the outer ear flap.

At this point, the mite infestation is generally clearly visible to the breeder. If your rabbit has an ear mite infestation you will notice a brown waxy build up inside one or both ears. Your rabbit will likely be scratching or shaking his head more than usual. Over the next day or two the waxy build up will become scab-like or flaky in its appearance. Your rabbit will most likely have several scratch marks in his ear from digging at it with it paws. Mites cause intense itching and pain that can lead to tremendous suffering.

When examining the ears of you rabbits if you see raw lesions along with brownish-grey, flaky crusts or scales, This is composed of mites, mite feces, blood, skin cells, and inflamed skin cells can be seen. In bad cases the accumulation of crusts may be so excessive that a rabbit cannot hold its ears erect, there may also be an unpleasing odor coming from the ears due to the accumulated gunk in the ear.

The ear mite is a parasite, known under the name of Psoroptes cuniculi. They are a member of the arachnid family, The average life span of an ear mite is 21 days. Most mites are microscopic and are living in the soil. The eggs of an ear mite are laid and hatch within four days of incubation. The larva emerges and feeds on the ear wax or skin oils of the rabbit, which continues for a week. After, the larva will molt into what is called a protonymph, which then molts again, becoming a deutonymph. The deutonymph mates with adult males, even though it has not yet established a gender at this time in its life. After mating, another round of molting takes place and the mite is established as either an adult male or female. The females are already ready to lay eggs, while the males go off to find deutonymphs to mate with. The average life span of an adult ear mite is about two months.

Before you start any treatment, you should separate your infested rabbits from any other rabbits you have, as ear mites spread from rabbit to rabbit very quickly. Then clean the cage and surrounding area, as well as sterilizing dishes and water bowls, to prevent re-infestation. When mite-infested rabbits shake or scratch their ears, flakes of mite-infested crust and scale rain down from the ears and into the rabbit’s environment. These falling flakes and crusts contain live mites and their eggs.

Because rabbit ear mites can survive away from the host animal for days to weeks (up to 3 weeks, depending on environmental humidity and temperature conditions), the environment of the mite-infested rabbit (hutches, burrows, pasture, feeding sources) should also be considered an important source of mite-infestation for non-infected animals. Non-infested rabbits can contract ear-mites from direct contact with the environment inhabited by ear-mite-infested rabbits. For this reason, when treating ear mites in rabbits, it is important to also decontaminate the environment that the rabbit is living in so that it does not become a source of mite re-infestation for the newly-treated rabbits.

Treatment for ear mites is fairly simple. There are several over the counter treatments that you can use, such as Rabbit RX (Good Stuff, have used this in the past) or a cat ear mite treatment. You may also use many oils such as mineral oil, baby oil, or even vegetable oil. Only add a few drops at a time, The oil will suffocate the mites and kill them. If you add a few drops of Tea Tree oil to the listed oils this will help by adding its antiviral, antibacterial, anti fungal, and antiseptic qualities to help the healing process. Most treatments have the same applications. I promote the use of naturally treating any of the health problems you may encounter in the raising of rabbits for meat. I will list some of the different natural treatments for ear mites I know of and have used.

When treating your rabbits do not remove the crust that appears in your rabbit’s ear. This will leave open, bloody skin that will easily become infected. This just puts the rabbit through unnecessary pain. The crusts will generally just fall off on their own when your rabbit shakes his head.

Using any of the oils or homemade oil mixes begin treatment on day one by placing 2-3 drops in both ears and gently massage the base of the ears. You may also use a cotton ball to coat the inside of the ear. On days 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 repeat same treatment as day one. Treat again on days 14, 21 and 28. With this treatment, your mite infestation should be gone. Ear mite eggs live for 28 days so by following this treatment plan you will break the life cycle of the mites. Remember you only need a few drops, do not overdo it.

Honey- is an great treatment for ear mite infections. Put three teaspoons of honey in a bowl and add 3 ounces of warm water. Mix the together until the honey is dissolved into the water. You will need a bulb syringe, to put the mixture in the rabbits ear. Squeeze the honey/water solution into the bulb syringe and then release it into the rabbit’s ear. Make sure the solution covers the entire inside of the ear, holding the ear upright so the inner ear gets completely coated with honey. Repeat with the other ear, making sure the whole of the inner ear is coated. Use the same treatment plans as listed above.

Corn Oil/Sunflower Oil- Using a few drops of corn oil (like Wesson) makes a decent home remedy for ear mites. The oil serves three different purposes, as it soothes skin, smothers the ear mites, and speeds the healing process.

Mineral Oil- You may temporarily combat ear mites by soaking a cotton ball with mineral oil and swabbing the inside of your rabbits ears. This is a good base to add essential oils and other healing herbs to make a natural mite treatment

Almond or Olive Oil- A mixture comprised of 1/2 ounce of almond (or olive) oil combined with 400 IU of vitamin E should be mixed and placed in a dropper bottle. The contents should be warmed to room temperature. Remember it is natural to see your rabbit shake their head during treatment.

Yellow Dock Root Extract- A convenient ear mite remedy to make at home may include Yellow Dock root extract, where nine drops of the extract are diluted with one tablespoon of water. Fill half of a dropper with the mixture and place in the ears. It is important to continue this treatment for many weeks (every other day) because ear mite eggs are rather resistant to home treatments, but once they hatch – a continuous treatment will prevent new hatchlings from reproducing until no more eggs exist.

White Vinegar- Some veterinarians suggest the use of white vinegar for treating ear mites because the acidity helps remove dirt and debris, which also helps to revitalize a healthy equilibrium within the ears. Using a small amount of diluted vinegar is suggested, which is made when combining one part vinegar and two parts of water together. Gently drip the remedy mix into the ears, making sure to thoroughly massage the solution. It is important to note that this remedy is not good to use on rabbits that have sores or intense irritation inside the ears or an uncomfortable stinging is the result.

Use a mix of apple cider vinegar in olive oil. Then, with a dropper, drop 6 or 7 drops in each ears, holding the ear flap closed for a few minutes after each treatment to keep rabbit from shaking the oil all over you. A few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in the water bottle is also supposed to act as a repellent and general tonic. Handy stuff for any rabbit medicine cabine (Check out the post on Apple Cider Vinegar For Rabbits)

Prevention is the most important item in any health program when raising rabbits. I make a mix of mineral oil with a few drops of apple cider vinegar, 5 or 6 drops of camphor oil and rosemary oil you can add tea tree oil and others if you want. I mix it up in the store bought mineral oil container and use that as storage and dispensing. I use a few drops in each ear as a preventive when I trim the rabbits nails, a few drops of mineral oil placed into each ear weekly can help to prevent new rabbit ear mite infestations from establishing inside of the ears.

While the infested rabbit is being treated for ear mites, it could be dropping mites and mite eggs into its local environment. In order to prevent this mite contamination from continuing by giving the hutch a chance to rest. I will to remove the rabbit from its permanent living quarters and treat it elsewhere during treatment giving plenty of time for the rabbits ear mites and their eggs to die off.Just in case you could not get the cage clean enough.

Try to keep dirt and dust at a minimum.

Do not use straw as straw is a natural harborer of mites. (I hate this one as I love using straw in nest boxes in the winter)

Sanitize your hutches with a mild bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. This will not hurt your rabbit’s feet, but I still recommend removing the rabbit from their cage when you spray on the solution let air dry.

If your hutch has wooden legs, consider coating them in paint, or oil. I know of one breeder that uses grease on the legs of all his hutches.

Reduce stress, ear mite populations in rabbits tend to explode in the presence of stress. Making every attempt to reduce the stress in your rabbitry can go a big way towards reducing the presence of mites and other diseases! By ensuring that your rabbits are provided with a good balanced nutrition, are provided with clean living conditions, not over-crowded and not being bullied by other rabbits, not exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and treated early for any other medical or disease conditions as soon as they are noticed.

Avoid overcrowding, rabbit ear mites tend to spread more quickly through a rabbit population when that population is overcrowded. Avoiding overcrowding reduces the spread of mites.

It is also possible for you, the rabbit breeder, to transmit ear mites from rabbit to rabbit by your hands and clothes. By handling rabbits with ear mites, even if you don’t actually know that they have ear mites, can result in rabbit ear mites crawling onto your skin and clothing. These rabbit ear mites will not harm you in any way, but they can pass from your skin or clothes onto the coat and ears of any other rabbits that you handle.

In order to avoid bringing rabbit ear mites (and other infectious diseases) home to your own rabbitry, you should refrain from handling rabbits and hares whose background and health status is not known. In particular, be very cautious of handling unknown stray and wild rabbits and rabbits in pet shops and shelters.

It is also important how vital it is to quarantine any new or ill rabbits from the rest of your herd. You do not want to infect any of the other rabbits in your rabbitry.

Most rabbit vets will tell you to use or prescribe ivermectin, which is an oral or inject-able antibiotic. The problem with this is it will often cause other problems in your rabbit, just like antibiotics do in humans by killing all the good bacteria. I do not recommend such treatment. A lot of angora rabbit breeders use this for mange, and other medical uses.This is just my opinion!

If you use the cat ear mite treatment (bought at the pet stores), follow the directions on the package. This goes against the manufacturer’s suggested use, but the treatment is effective.

Hope this answers any of the questions you have on ear mites if I have missed anything e-mail me or post in the comment section of this post.

I try to do everything natural in my rabbitry by avoiding chemicals and most antibiotics. Join The Rabbit Revolution! By liking us on Facebook and get daily rabbit information and ideas, Also subscribe to the blog to get emails on the newest post as they are posted!

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Posted on October 30, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 69 Comments.

  1. Always great info. I use the cat drops I get over the counter and they work well. I usually give all my rabbits a couple drops once a month to help prevent the mites.

  2. Do you use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth? I use it all over including myself drink it mixed with water and ACV. Diatomaceous Earth kills by physical action, not chemical. The tiny diatoms scratch off the insect’s waxy coating, and dehydrate it. DE is also an effective organic wormer and will kill any worms or parasites the pets may have. When using as a daily pet food supplement or as a safe wormer, mix Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth with pet food. Diatomaceous Earth is also a natural organic pet wormer and livestock wormer. PLUS, DE is a popular natural dietary health supplement for pets and animals. Maby I’ll try adding some food grade diatomaceous earth to the oil to keep the dust down.

    Muscovy Mark

  3. Thank you so much for all of the great info!

  4. You said not to use hay because of mites. But my rabbit is going to have babies soon and it is really cold. Will the babies freeze without hay? I have just started raising rabbits so I don’t know very much.

  5. Thanks for answering, but what kind of straw do you use and where do I get it? I just want to give the best care to my rabbits possible

  6. I know this question has nothing to do with mites. But I thought you might be able to answer. My rabbit gave birth to one baby and the very next day she gave birth to five dead ones. Was it something I did wrong when I bred her.

  7. If you are keeping your rabbits over a vermicomposting set-up, what do you do if an infection occurs as the eggs have likely been falling into the composting/worm pile for a while?

  8. Thanks for this post. My mom bought a rabbit 2 days ago and when I looked in it’s ears I saw a lot of crusty stuff. I know it was not normal cause my other rabbit doesn’t have that. So i immediately told her not to put it with the other. I am happy that I found this very informative post explaining everything about the infection and how to treat.

  9. Wow…thanks! Our bunny lives happily outside all year and it was just lately I noticed a crusty lump in her ear and found this site right away because of a picture here. I am trying a mix of olive, mineral and tea tree oils and already, only day 2, the big crusty lump is gone! I know tea tree oil works wonders for repelling head lice so hopefully it will repel mites as well! also it’s a geat antiseptic. I am sad though to hear straw harbours mites as our bunny loves to nest in the winter in it. I am currenty looking into other options. Thanks very much for your natural treatment…I didn’t feel comfortable putting chemicals on her to treat this. :D

  10. Most rabbit vets will tell you to use or prescribe ivermectin, which is an oral or inject-able antibiotic.

    I have been using ivermectin for about six years. However, I use a spray bottle set to the finest spray pattern possible and just one very short spray to each ear. No need to even touch the rabbit. Just spray as they sit in the cage. Very seldom is more than one treatment necessary. Even with the price of about $45.00 for 5 ounces, it’s worth it to avoid all the work and time involved in other remedies.

  11. We have rabbits in our yard, what can we do to the grass and yard to prevent ear mites from growing but not hurt the rabbits?

  12. Yogurt? Always worked for my rabbits and they seemed to find relief from the cool application.

  13. Will Sweet Oil be ok for rabbits? I have been using it on dogs and cats for years. Just getting started raising rabbits and quail and trying to learn as much as I can.

  14. I am seriously considering raising rabbit in the near future. You mentioned that straw is a good ground for ear mites,thus you don’t use it for nest anymore, I wonder if i can use rice straw for feed? I opt to raise organically.Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience. It is very informative indeed. I read almost all i need to know on your Rise and shine, I keep reading and learning from you and also from you all who share and contribute your ideas and comments so to speak through this channel.

  15. As always your articles are informative and easy to understand. Looking forward to one about DE and rabbits.

  16. So glad I found this! I noticed a crusty yellow patch in my new conti bucks ear this morning and googled asap. I am now treating with sunflower oil. Its not a problem I have ever encountered with my french lops in the six years that I have been a rabbit keeper.

  17. As I plan a small “herd”, would getting straw and powdering it with DE in advance take care of the possibility of mites? I was thinking of breaking up the bale and layering it with DE (food safe) and keeping it in a rolling container (clean trash receptacle). I’ll keeping them on the north side. Of course providing heat and wind break as needed, but you mentioned the straw during the winter and I’m OCD with planning; which btw, works out for live things.
    Thanks.

    • That would work but that would be dusty for the rabbits, If you only have straw just keep a eye on your rabbits ears, not all straw is infested. When I first started with rabbits I used straw as a floor bedding with no problems

  18. Just started treating our rabbit with the honey process you mentioned and there has been an immediate transformation in her ears.

    We found the rabbit in a MacDonald’s car park one Saturday night and took her home, no one has claimed her and that was 2 months ago and she had grown so much.

    She comes and sits by us when we are in the back yard and chases our dog when he annoys her, she isn’t always happy about going back in to her hutch at night after being out all day, but we don’t want anything to happen to her.

  19. Thanks for all the information! I think our rabbit has ear mites, she currently has 8 babies in the hutch with her! They are not old enough to separate. I do not see any evidence of the mites in the babies, but I figure they probably have them as well. As a preventative, should we treat all of the babies, too? Which remedy would you suggest?

  20. Thanks for this info and the tips, I am treating my two breeding parents for ear mites at present, using hydrogen peroxide and olive oil….hopefully all will be cleared up quickly…..they are looking much happier after only two days treatment.

    One question, can the mites affect other animals or is this one rabbit specific?

  21. You said: ‘ Most rabbit vets will tell you to use or prescribe ivermectin, which is an oral or inject-able antibiotic. ‘

    Actually Ivermectin is NOT an antibiotic it is an anthelmintic which is an anti-parasitic compound. It is used to treat internal and external parasites. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivermectin).

    To treat earmites in rabbits you would dose .2 or .3 ml (use an insulin syringe which will be easy to see the dose markings).

    I have used both oil and ivermectin on rabbits – ivermectin is far superior and doesn’t leave a horrid oily mess on the rabbit (this clumps the hair and can impede the animals ability to stay warm in the winter). In addition to getting rid of those pesky earmites you will also worm the critter for internal parasites. One small jab under the skin in the scruff of the neck and taa daa problem solved.

  22. I just used Earoxide on my 6 year old bunny. His case was so bad he could not hold his ear up or walk straight any longer. We had given up, having tried all these home remedies with oils with no lasting results. My friend reccommended Earoxide, bought from PetSupermarket. It’s for dogs but worked like magic! We just pulled 3 very large plugs out of his ear canals made up of all the mite crap and debris. Absolutely disgusting! He can now hold his ears upright! We will re-treat in a few days so as not to over stress him! Earoxide works great, forget all these home rememdies, they are a waste of time. I paid $12.50 for it.

  23. i also just had this problem with a rabbit, but i culled earlier today before i found this site & realized it was earmites,i thought he had a bacterial infection & i didnt want him to suffer anymore. i wish i had remembered this, but i have used sweet oil in the past on dogs ears for mites & it works the same as olive oil etc..i may have been able to save him.. also u can use antibotic sauve on any open sores in their ears,, thanks to everyone for their great information…

  24. dont know if this good or bad but one of my rabbits has ear mites and we started with the honey treat, after brushing off the loose flaky stuff i coated the upper ear with bag balm purchased from the local tractor supply store, within seconds you can actually see the little mites crawling to the surface of the ear not sure if that was a good idea that helped or just caused them to spread but figured it would suffocate the mites in the ear, then just finished up with the application of the honey treat.

  25. Noticed for the first time today that my rabbit also had this crusty build up. Thank you so much for this very informative post. I was worrying as she may be in pain. I haven’t noticed any head shaking or scratching but the build up is as much as in above picture. How long would it take to get to the point in the picture? I pet and feed her everyday but did not see/feel until today. Once again thank you. X

  26. If a rabbit lives inside and doesn’t interact with other rabbits, is it likely that they could get ear mites?

  27. I am so glad I found your site. We have several inside rabbits, we just bought a chinchilla at Xmas, who now shows the signs of mites (got at PetSmart), my bunnies hv never been outside. Now our female rabbit that’s my daughters BFF started scratching her ear so bad it looked like scabs/bloody. Clover is very big, and doesn’t really like being held, so I sadly didn’t notice her inner ear :( she’s such a sweetheart, I am thankful I found you! I cleansed her ear with some warm water, then very gently put some mineral oil in it. I did both even though it only appears to be in one. But her ears also feel very warm so I’m worried. She’s still eating, drinking, binky-ing so can you offer help? Thank you SO much!

  28. What type of corn oil do I use? Can I use the ones for cooking?

  29. Thank you so much for your help.I got my rabbit for Easter two Years ago he was just A baby. His Name Is Pepper because he is black.

  30. My bunny has ear mites and I would like to do the honey treatment. Can you please tell me how many drops should I put in each ear. I am afraid I may hurt my bunny by putting a lot of fluid in the ears.

  31. Hi how often do you use the honey remedy for ear mites. Is it daily?

    • On days 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 repeat same treatment as day one. Treat again on days 14, 21 and 28. With this treatment, your mite infestation should be gone. Ear mite eggs live for 28 days so by following this treatment plan you will break the life cycle of the mites.

  32. Bobbie Straus

    Are these remedies for ear mites ok for skin mites? My bunny has what looks like severe dandruff on his lower back. I can’t tell if he has ear mites because I can’t see that far in his ears. He’s a holland lop w/ears down. If he has skin mites is he likely to have ear mites? If the oil won’t work on skin mites, can you suggest something besides Revolution ($125.00).

    • Ear mites and fur mites need to be treated differently.Rabbit fur mites can be treated using a flea powder designed for cats. Follow the label directions for cat treatment. You should repeat every seven days. If, after the third treatment, the infestation remains. You will need to try ivermectin.

  33. I just noticed that my one doe has crusty build up on her one ear, and is also a nursing mother with two week old babies. I am going to start treating her with your recommendations, but what do you suggest we do about quarantine the mother as her little ones need to still be with her. And should we treat all our other rabbits including the babies even if they show no sign of mites?

  34. I am watching a rabbit for the next few months – we got her a few days ago – and when the owner dropped her off she said “she has some ear mites – I just treat with honey water.” I saw that this as a recommended solution in your page and mixed the solution per your recommendation, but I am struggling with giving her the treatment. I filled the bulb syringe and tried to gently spray it over her ears while she was in her crate, but she became very distressed and bit me. How do I treat her ear mites so that she doesn’t become that stressed out again (and I keep my wrists intact)? Thank you so much in advance – I want to be a good bunny foster-mom!

  35. We just acquired a rabbit. I don’t know anything about how to raise them. When we got him he had a small round circle on each ear where fur was missing. Now there are little clumps of fur coming off his ears but there’s nothing inside his ears its all on the outside. It does look like dandruff so I think its ear mites. Can I just apply the honey or oil solutions to the outside of his ears? Or Is there something else this might be?

    • Rabbits are very clean animals and will groom often, this could be from chapped ears or a skin condition. Apply a small amount of vitamin e oil. You do not want to over do it just smear a light coat. You do not want the rabbit ingesting to much

  36. I heard that dusting diatomacious earth over the ears can also help ear mites. Of course, all while preventing the rabbit from breathing it in. Would you recommend this?

  37. Could you tell me what ratio of olive oil to cider vinegar you would use please?

  38. Also, my vet recommended an iodine/water solution mix to treat, any opinion on this? I was considering doing the olive oil and cider vinegar and then on the days in between doing an iodine solution, what do you think? He also recommended honey but said I would need to be careful about flies being attracted (we’re in Portugal and there a quite a lot). He suggested in someway closing their ears off with a bandage! I can’t see this working at all! Any problems with your honey solution and flies? Thanks! Pam

  39. Thanks for the advice! Tried to catch them this morning for first treatment and can’t! We keep them in a large run. Left them for now and will try again this evening. If you have any tried and tested methods of catching rabbits do let me know! I think what we may have to do is set up a small area (did this morning but they broke out so something more sturdy) and they will have to stay in that for the month for the treatment. don’t want to keep stressing them out so much. Thanks again!

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