Ear Mites in Rabbits

Ear Mites in Rabbits

What is the name of the ear mite seen in rabbits?

Psoroptes cuniculi is the rabbit ear mite.

How are the mites identifiable?

Mites are relatively large and oval-shaped. They have moderately short legs, with long segmented suckers attached distally.

What is the lifecycle of ear mites?

The lifecycle is approximately 21 days, with adult females laying eggs in the wax and debris of the ear canal. After four days, eggs hatch into larvae, becoming adults after a couple of moults.

How are ear mites transmitted?

Mites are transmitted by direct contact between infected rabbits and via infected fomites.

What symptoms are associated with ear mite infections?

Ear mites cause otitis externa in rabbits and are very irritating to the ear canal lining due to antigenic material in their faeces and saliva. This results in pruritis, often to a severe degree.

Clinically affected rabbits can become head-shy and owners may notice a subdued demeanour. Observations of ear scratching with the hind feet are noted along with head shaking.

Ear canals can become congested with a thick crusting exudate also referred to as ‘ear canker’. In severe cases, lesions can spread to the face, neck, abdomen and forelimbs.

What are the differential diagnosis?

Other conditions that can cause scabbing and exudate in the ear canals include the spirochaete Treponema cuniculi and bacterial or mycotic otitis externa.

How can I confirm a diagnosis?

The mite can be visualised on otoscopic examination of the ear. For confirmation, debris from the ear can be carefully collected and mineral oil added prior to visualisation under microscopic examination.

How do I treat the mites?

The mites can be treated with a variety of different anti-parasite treatments including a topical ivermectin Spot-on, such as Xeno ® 450 Spot-on or Xeno ® 50 mini Spot-on applied to the back of the neck.

Ear mites can cause irritation and pain. It is advisable to use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug as part of the treatment protocol.

Avoid removal of crusts as this can be very painful, resulting in open ulcerated sites. Instead crusts can be softened with mineral oil and allowed to fall off naturally.

Claws on the hind feet can be trimmed to reduce damage inflicted through self-trauma in response to pruritis.

What happens if I don’t treat an ear mite infection?

If not treated, an ear mite infection can become very debilitating for the affected animal. Weight loss, gut stasis and secondary bacterial infections of the ears are possible. Otitis externa can progress to otitis media or interna, with rupture of the tympanic membrane and the development of vestibular and other neurological signs.

Prompt treatment of an ear mite infection is strongly advised.

Can rabbit ear mites infect other species?

Rabbit ear mites are generally species specific, however there has been one reported case of disease in a guinea pig.

How do I prevent re-infection?

Mites are able to survive off the host and can live within the environment on debris for 21 days. If an ear mite infection is confirmed, full decontamination of the enclosure is necessary. Treatment of the rabbit should extend to cover a period exceeding 21 days. For example, the recommended ivermectin protocol is one treatment topically, for example Xeno ® 450 Spot-on or Xeno mini Spot-on ( use the correct size of product for the weight of the animal), every 14 days for three applications.

Any new rabbits entering a group or household should have a thorough clinical examination to ensure they are parasite free.

Is regular ear cleaning in rabbits necessary?

In normal healthy rabbits, routine ear cleaning is not indicated. With individuals prone to wax build up, careful cleaning of the ear canal may be warranted. Lop-eared breeds appear more prone to the build up of wax and debris.


Home Remedy For Rabbits With Ear Mites

If you are going to raise rabbits, then eventually you’ll have the problem of ‘ear mites’. It is pretty easy to diagnose; there is an ever growing build-up of gunk in their ears. If left untreated, they get more and more lethargic, stop eating, and I am not sure what else because I’ve never let it get that far. But I presume it eventually leads to a miserable death.

Bill is an older friend got me started in raising rabbits. He gave me his technique on treating ear mites. Bill uses drops of campho-phenique in the rabbits ears (campho-phenique is an over the counter medication for cold sores). Bill told me not to worry about getting out the crud, just get the drops in down far enough to work, and the rabbit will scratch all the junk out.

As the mites die from the campho-phenique, they tickle the rabbits ears and sure enough, the rabbits would shake their heads and scratch out all the gunk. It works.

I’ve successfully treated many rabbits with campho-phenique.

But always in the back of my mind I wondered, what would I do if I couldn’t get Campho-Phenique? Yes, yes, that old “store closing” concern. But I am also in love with the idea of true self-reliance. So I hit the web and checked out a bunch of options on home remedies using medicine I could grow or find myself.

I decided to try the “honey” method for treating the mites. And I want to report that it is working very well.

Unlike Bills original method, first I used tweezers to clean out the biggest pieces of gunk from the rabbits ears. I probably would have worked without cleaning it, but the big plug. I just couldn’t stand seeing it there. I made a mixture of about a teaspoon of honey and two teaspoons of warm water. I put about 2 or 3 dropperfuls of the honey mixture into each ear and massaged so it would get way down in there.

I applied this twice a day for the first few days and then switched to once per day.

It’s been about a week now and I can see that this method is very effective. The ears are almost completely clean and the rabbit is much, much happier.

Apparently, mites have a 21 day life cycle.

Why is that important? Well, it means you have to make sure you treat for that long just to ensure you’ve wiped out every last possible egg or reproducing adult. Here is a link to a handy pdf file describing ear mites, along with skin and fur mites too. http://www.mybunny.org/info/mites.pdf I will warn you though, the treatments they recommend are chemically oriented. But the rest of the information is good and the photos of these microscopic creatures are fascinating.

I am planning to switch to applying the honey mix once every two days pretty soon.

FYI, yes, the rabbits fur just below the ears gets a little sticky when the honey mixture gets on it. It dries out and stiffens there, but it is not a problem and doesn’t hurt the rabbit. Every couple of days I use a piece of cloth and some warm water to clean the area.

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If this treatment ultimately doesn’t work, I‘ll let you know, but from what I am seeing so far, this is an excellent home remedy for treating ear mites in rabbits. The next time the problem comes up, I might try another home remedy just to test out different techniques.

If you’ve successfully treated rabbit ear mites, please do put a comment down below.

Marjory Wildcraft is an Expedition Leader and Bioneer Blogger with The [Grow] Network, which is an online community that recognizes the wisdom of “homegrown food on every table.” Marjory has been featured as an expert on sustainable living by National Geographic, she is a speaker at Mother Earth News fairs, and is a returning guest on Coast to Coast AM. She is an author of several books, but is best known for her “Grow Your Own Groceries” video series, which is used by more than 300,000 homesteaders, survivalists, universities, and missionary organizations around the world.

This post was written by Marjory


Do these treatments work with other animals with ear mites, aka dogs and cat? It sounds like if it will work with pets that could save a lot of people a lot of money spent for vet visits.

Brought my cat to the vet with ear mites and was told mineral oil works as a home remedy for cats and dogs. Of course they wanted to give my cat a $25 treatment but having 7 cats and dogs I decided to try the mineral oil. I would imagine it would work on bunnies also.

Does this work for dogs and cats

From what I’ve read it does work for dogs and cats.

It works for any animal that honey is safe for them to eat. Since it’s just honey and water the only concern would be is it safe for them to invest as some of the honey will get on their fur. When they clean themselves they will invest minor amounts. Very minor!

I have always used mineral oil. We keep a good supply around in our animal first aid box along with bag balm etc… I do wipe out the gunk from the mites because I like the bunnies to look clean and happy. We also use warm mineral oil for people earaches especially on cold, windy winter days when we have to work outside. We use a little cotton to keep the oil in and the wind out.

Thanks Nora, love to hear from you as always.

I think if rabbit or anybody has something going on in the ears, that is a sign something not right is going on in the intestines maybe from food or stress… because the ears are connected to the internal organs, for example intestines,

Yes, that is the next area to look into. Vitamin deficiencies or digestive problems.

Mineral oil has worked well on our rabbits. The 21 day cycle is news to me. I’ve never had to treat more than one time for success. Maybe just lucky.
-And I take the gunk out with tweezers too. If I had that crap in my ear I’d want it out ASAP.

For cleaning mites out of rabbit ears, try hydrogen peroxide, which can be found in any drug store. I use it to clean ear wax out of my ears. I just pour a very little into a small empty jar lid. I lie down and pour the peroxide into my ear, leaving it up to five minutes. Then I rinse it out with a bulb syringe and warm water. A rabbit’s ears may not need to be rinsed out.

OATS-FED CHICKENS LAY MORE EGGS. I read that chickens don’t lay any/many eggs in winter because of the cold. But a couple found out that when they were fed OATS to the chickens, they laid more eggs. It’s worth trying. I’d like to hear how it works for others.

Thanks Robert. A neighbor of mine swears by oats for chickens int he winter. She say it warms them up.

Chickens lays eggs according to the amount of daylight aka sunlight during the day, hence when our days get shorter as in daylight hours the hens slow down in production. When daylight hours are getting longer they tend to lay more eggs. I hope this was helpful.

My ducks always get oats mixed in their feed! 365 days a year!

Chickens do not EVER lay more than one eggs a day. All of these claims to “get your hens laying more eggs” are false.

When chickens are laying less than one egg a day, production can potentially be increased.

We never had even one instance of ear mites when we raised rabbits. We always kept our rabbits very clean, and with a good diet, consisting of alfalfa hay, pellets, and sometime, for a treat, all-grain. We also gave them lamb’s quarters and other wild greens, which they consumed with gusto. I raised the young ones with all-grain as a food choice for them, and they loved it, growing fast and big and healthy.

We’ve successfully used both petroleum jelly (Vaseline™) and mineral oil. A Q-Tip™ is all it takes in either case.

We only use mineral oil, or if we don’t have that, olive oil. We apply every day for 5 days and then once more a week later. We don’t take the gunk out unless we can’t get the oil in. They shake it loose within a few days and it beats scratching the ear with tweezers. This has worked every time for us.

Nice confirmation Karen. The main concern I have about oil, its it is difficult to get in a grid down situation. Not a problem right now of course, but I am always thinking.

To comment on the rabbit ear mites. What I learned about 30 years ago was that you have to cut off the oxygen supply to the bugs. Vasaline would work, I even heard of using thick motor oil when nothing else was around. So in conclusion thick greasy goo would work. Maybe even rendered lard. Peppermint essical oils help keep bugs away. In my travel trailer It had rat and mice nests in it. So
I spend 40 hours vinegar and water washing the entire unit. Now every month In each corner of the trailer I put cotton balls dipped in peppermint or eucliptus oil. No more pests and it smells very nice. Enjoy.

Nettie, yes the oxygen cutoff sounds like a plausible reason for why all the varities of treatments work.

Hey, nice tip on repelling mice and rats. A cat could work too.

I’ve never noticed a problem with mites. Is this a problem for warm weather only or do they come to visit in the winter also?

Its winter now. I’ve seen them in all seasons here.

What kind of honey? Pure, unpasteurized? Thankx.

Also, re: intestinal health, Cheerios is trying to go non-GMO, they say it is almost impossible as 85% of corn grown in US is GMO. My local farm store said some alfalfa growers, here, have switched to ROUND-UP ready, GMO alfalfa. There is organic, corn, chicken scratch available, at double the price, but no available for sure organic rabbit pellets from alfalfa.

Raw local honey my neighbor produces. I heard about the cheerios. And the GMO alfalfa. It makes you want to grow your own…

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In all the years that we had rabbits when I was a kid we never had a problem with ear mites.
I had rabbits here for only two years and no problems.
What I was taught way back then and what I read recently said to keep them from getting ear mites keep them away from your chickens.
Chickens carry and spread those mites and that is why we have always keep them far apart.

Oh, that might be. These rabbits are in an experimental area that is semi-free range (they get the run of a big fenced in area). And they share that with a small flock of chickens.

You know what is funny? The chickens yield to the rabbits at the food pan which they sometime share.

Have you seen a rabbit fight?
A cat we used to have tackled a wild cottontail years ago.
The cat pounced and the rabbit rolled over and thrashed the tar out of it with it’s hind feet.
Cat left the bunnies alone after that.
I believe it was Jasmine not Toni.

Oh yes, rabbits can fight. I found that out by having too many bucks in a small space one time. Yikes, they are vicious!

I would be a little worried that ants would be attracted to the honey. If that would happen, I don’t think the rabbit would be a happy camper.

That hasn’t been a problem yet. And you could clean it a bit more than I have been doing.

Hi Marjory, I would also like to find out how coconut oil goes due to its germ killing properties, very natural also.

I bet that works well, but there is the question of ‘how do I make coconut oil”?

you buy it at a store

I have been using coconut oil on my cats ears (it is safe for cats). The only trick is to warm it just enough to melt but yet NOT be hot– no Pouring hot oil in tender ears! I use an eyedropper to get about a half teaspoon in their ears. Have someone hold the animals head so they don’t thrash or jump while the dropper is in the ear

I tried it last night. I had no mineral oil. I hope it works.

I have been using coconut oil mixed with tea tree oil for my rabbit’s ears. They are looking much much better!

Thank you for your website! Honey and mineral oil are new to me. For my dogs I use green tea, apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide – equal parts. Works well. After the 21 days, I just do it periodically to keep the ears clean.

I’ve not had that problem with my rabbits, by others have suggested to me that if it happens, use olive oil or baby oil.

This is my 25th yr raising SATIN rabbits — the fancy shiny fur large meat rabbits. Darren of Green Change is correct to use OIL. But if the oil isn’t what you’d use on your own body, then no. Most mothers do not use baby oil because of the petroleums….doubt that would be good for rabbits either in the long term! HOWEVER in 25 yrs I did not invite in new rabbits nor cats and never got ear mites. NECK MITES come from birds visiting your feeders and they are easily smothered by a teaspoon or two of BAG BALM, a coarse antibiotic salve used on cows.
NOTE: as with most mites, you cannot see them. In the thick fur of a rabbit in winter, you can feel the scratches from the rabbits claws.
I do it ONCE, then check in two weeks. If there is any evidence of scratching, repeat. It can be contagious if left go a long time. Those ear mite pictures….well WHY are the rabbits being kept? Once a rabbit, a delicate creature, is damaged it rarely regains its health.
Best of luck raising healthy stock! Here’s my article below and good links to USDA info.

How-to raise rabbits and gardens!
Rabbits love Roses …and other rabbit research
And why you might raise rabbits even if you are vegan
29 True Facts about Rabbits
ardengrabbit dot com/facts.html

TEACH CHILDREN to raise rabbits…. give them
good survival skills 4 the 7 generations !

do you grow your own food for the rabbits? if so what. thanks, pat

I grow about half of the food for the caged rabbits. I also have rabbits in tractors (small movable pens) that get maybe 60% – 90% of their food from the lawn they are moved over. I have some colony rabbit experiments (rabbits in a larger pen) which are eating about 60%-90% of their food from the small green paddocks there – it’s still very experimental. I am also working with an area where I am creating habitat for wild rabbits and are 100% feeding themselves for what I’ve encouraged to grow.

of what is growing there Its a convenience thing.

I hope ALL preppers realize they can’t be getting all set up for post-collapse in a place which not be suitable after banking and commerce go 15th century. Product distribution systems, until the products are gone, will no longer be more than a couple of miles.I.E.: walking distance. Rabbits, or whatever livestock had better have owners who won’t need to go to the store for anything. Do you have a cool cellar or equivalent with room for your food and your animals feed, and adequate , well fenced garden area? Independant means to deliver water? Your cellar will need to have medical supplies keeping cool and safe for perhaps a very long time. I’d say, list the stuff in your animal AND people medicines which you had better have plenty on hand. Today if possible.
I read statements from Preppers describing escape routes they are contemplating which don’t seem very well thought through. Folks, water is the key. Your faucets will produce nothing. The mojave dessert is NOT the place to go, with very rare exception.

I enjoy the dear information and facts people contribute towards your posts. I’ll search for your website and view once again here often. I am just rather specific I will be explained to lots of completely new products here! Enjoy for the!

This is the first time we have ever had rabbits. well during these cold months we don’t go out and pet or play with the rabbits, so they have turned a it wild. They do no let us carry them. well a couple of days ago I noticed the rabbits ears full of gunk. anywho how do I hold them or get them to put and remedies if they don’t let me. any advice would help…

I don’t handle my rabbits that much either. I encourage my kids to play with them, but that usually only happens when they are cute babies. You are correct that rabbits will get very skittish quickly even if they had been very tame if you don’t keep it up.

Well, make sure your arms and especially our precious wrists are well covered. Rabbit have powerful hind quarters and can cut you deeply. If you haven’t watched the video… well here is another shameless plug. In the rabbits section of “Grow Your Own Groceries” I do show you how I hold my rabbits. And I’ll summarize here.

A rabbit associates being picked up from above as a predator such as a hawk killing it. So try to avoid that method if at all possible. And sometimes it is not possible, but try not to hold them by the scruff of the neck or from the back if you can. I usually pick up the rabbit and then quickly tuck its head into the space between my arm and my side. Keeping its head in the dark, confining its body somewhat, and having its feet supported (usually against my body) the rabbit feel sale and secure.

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I hold the rabbit like this for a minute or so to let it get over the ‘freaked out’ phase.

From the rabbits perspective it is like being picked up by God. It would freak me out too!

If you can do what you need with the rabbits head tucked in, that’s great. If you need access to the ears, then just make sure your holding the rabbit firmly and be as calm and soothing as you can.

You know what? I think I’ll make a video out of this…

Hello. I really liked your article and it seems to be very helpful in my case, since I am an Indian resident and Selamectin isnt commonly available here, and ordering it online would be very costly. I can administer Ivermectin on her, but she is only 3 months old and rather young for it.

I could not get hold of Campho-Phenique Oil where I live, but baby oil (or any other oil like olive oil) and camphor cubes. Phenol is not an over the counter medicine here.
Will it be okay if I mix half a camphor cube in 1 tsp of baby oil ?
Also, are we supposed to use a dropper and put it inside the inner ear canal or apply it with a brush or cotton in the insides of her ear ?
Please respond to it soon. Thanks.

I am reading everyones comments and I’m saddrned that no one addressed your questions. Therefore, if you read this then know that any type of oil would work or the above honey & water rememdy. Use a dropper to put droplets inside the ear and use cotton swab to coat the inner ear that you can see.

I use raw honey, unpasteurized, and water or granulated sugar for most skin infections from animals to humans. Sugar & honey have natural antibiotic properties and converts to small amounts of hydrogen perioxide. This has been used for centuries before antibiotics and anti fungals were developed. It’s used in battlefield medicine, vetrrinarian medicine once again and intensive care units of hospitals when an infection is antibiotic resistant. Mayo Clinic in U.S.A. did a very extensive study to find out why Sugar and Raw Honey had such healing affects and found the above.

To use sugar on a wound you cleanse the wound, pour sugar granules into wound and wrap or cover wound on a human, same for animals. Change dressing several times a day. Infection in a body feeds off sugar, glucose, therefore, the infection in an animal or human will immediately go toward and feed off the sugar instead of the sugar, glucose in our own tissues. Healing time is exponentially quicker and very little scarring involved.

I made a sugar paste once since I didn’t have raw honey on hand and because of the location of the injury and infection on a stray cat, right behind his ears & head, I was unable to make a wrap or bandage the area. The sugar paste dried into it’s own bandage. Within 6hrs the infection was dripping down, into his coat. Infection was literally being pulled from the body tissues as it was attracted to the sugar paste. I’ve never seen anything like it. His fever stopped, he was near death. By 12hrs the size of the wounds were smaller by a few mm. I continued this routine 3x’s a day until healed.

Please keep in mind that I had taken the cat to a veterinarian twice before and all the medications for inside his ears and outside wounds had failed. The first time nothing worked. The 2nd time the medicine was thought to help, took a very long time, and when I thought he was healed, everything came back full blown and worse. He had terrible antibacterial resistant infection and yeast, fungal infection that wasn’t responsive to medical treatment. Sugar/Raw Honey was also found to have anti fungal properties, as well. All in all… Sugar and raw honey is good remedy for humans and all animals.

I have very serious auto immune issues due to chronic leukemia. Therefore, if I get a small bug bite, mosquito bite, small scratch etc, a nasty infection always follows. Whenever I use the Centuries old remedy I heal quickly, whereas, if I go to the doctor the antibiotics don’t start working quickly and can put one in danger of building up a resistance so that if needed, the antibiotics won’t work.

As far as the ear mites… You can use the mineral oil or any type of cooking oil these kind people have suggested with a dropper forctthe inner ear and then use a cotton swab or ball to swab the the inside of ear you can see and also swab the tips, edges of ears. They suggested a timeline of 21 days. I hope this helps. You don’t have to use Camphophenique or Camphor, it’s only a suggestion and personal choice. Tea Tree oil can be used, I’m sure you have that in India and you can refer back to the previous comments for the mixture amount….as in…how many drops of that mixed with a certain amount of drops of water or other oils.

I’ve very much enjoyed reading the article and comments. I came here looking for ideas for my dog and cat since I suspect they have ear mites and since it’s been 40 years that I last dealt with ear mites for rabbits back then I wondered if the same would work as well now. Thanks to everyone for the ideas and help.
Happy and Healthy 2017 to everyone!

Side note: Sugar and Raw Honey also have natural steroidal properties also, therefore, swelling and redness went down quickly and cat became more comfortable within a couple of hours.

Normally you wouldn’t make a paste out of sugar but instead, pour sugar directly into wound and then bandage. I had to make a paste due to the location of the cats wounds, right behind his ears, on his head. He would’ve shaken his head and sugar granules would’ve flown everywhere and the location of wpunds made it impossible to bandage. Otherwise, when I have a wound or my animals have wounds I pour the sugar directly into the wound after wound has been cleaned well with soap and water and then I bandage. This should be done at least 3x’s a day. If there’s no sugar granules on bandage when you remove in order to clean and repeat the process this is a good sign. You will see the puss and infection covering the bandage when you remove. As you progress into the healing process and there’s sugar granules that aren’t being absorbed when you remove the bandage then that means infection is subsiding, it’s no longer drawing and feeding off the sugar because very little if any infection is left. Just a little fyi…

***Clean water is a must.***
I use distilled water that I buy from the store and not drinking water because distilled water has gone through a better purification process. Never use tap water for wound care unless you boil it first and then let it cool down.


  • Xx_mika_massacre_xx XoX says:

    I keep my rabbits in an outside pen, wire 4ft down into the ground so they can dig tunnels without them escaping, my female who is suffering from a really severe case of ear mites, she would stay in the tunnels and we would rarely see her, by the time we saw her it was absolutely heartbreaking. She has it under her chin, around her eyes, down her back, and all over her ears. We have gotten most of it off her ears and on her back but under her chin is still really bad, I’m absolutely horrified and disgusted that I didnt notice it on her before and shes probably going to die from it cause it’s so bad. Since we’re quarantined with the virus going around theres not much we can do other than keep treating her with stuff around the kitchen. Please if you have any advice comment below. I love her so much and the window of hope is closing on her.

    • Insect Farmer says:

      Atleast put olive oil in the ears and on infected parts. Kills mites and helps healing.

  • Brittany Walker says:

    I rescued a rabbit who had lost all his hair and inside his earshe had ear mites and crust so bad that it look like someone poured corn flakes in his he. Took him home took him to a special vet he stayed with me for eight long years. Before he passed according to the vet looking at his teeth he guessed his age to be about 15. From where he came to when he died he lived the last 10 years of his life very much loved and very healthy

  • gnomesnfairiesRreal says:

    It would be so satisfying to see the ear cleaning process from beginning to end. The debrideing and flushing out the ears would make a great video. I love ear cleaning videos — humans, dogs, cats and now rabbits!
    BTW, how often do rabbits get huge plugs of wax in their ears? That was excellent!

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