Instructor: And Washmuth Show bio Dan has taught college Nutrition and Anatomy courses for several years. He has a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from Furman University and a M.S. in Dietetics & Nutrition from Florida International University. He is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C) Ear mites are a type of parasite that can affect various animals, including rabbits. This lesson will provide the reader with information regarding the common symptoms and treatment for rabbits infected with ear mites.

Twinkle Gets Sick

Olivia is a 5-year-old who recently got a pet rabbit for her birthday. Olivia has wanted a pet rabbit for a very long time, and loves playing with her new furry friend whom she named Twinkle. Since Olivia’s backyard is fenced in, Olivia’s mom allows her to bring Twinkle in the backyard to play. Each day, Olivia and Twinkle play together outside for a couple of hours. Recently, Olivia has noticed that Twinkle has been itching her right ear a lot, and that there is a brown crust growing in this ear as well. Olivia told her mom about these symptoms, and her mom called a veterinarian to schedule an appointment. At the vet’s office, Twinkle was taken through several tests to see what was causing the problems with her ear. After going over all the results, the vet told Olivia and her mom that Twinkle had ear mites in her right ear. Ear mites (scientific name Psoroptes cuniculi) are an eight-legged parasite that can infect the ears of certain animal hosts including rabbits, sheep, horses, and goats (this lesson will focus solely on ear mites in rabbits). Rabbits that live in close proximity to other potentially infected rabbits, such as in pet stores or houses that have multiple pet rabbits, are at increased risk for being infected with ear mites. Rabbits may also become infected by these arachnids by playing or resting in grass or other materials that may contain the eggs of these mites (such as grass used for bedding or found outside, like when Twinkle played in the backyard).

  • Lesson
  • Quiz
  • Course
Rabbits who spend a lot of time near other rabbits, such as in pet stores, are at increased risk for being infected with ear mites.

The symptoms of ear mites in rabbits include:

  • Itchy ears
  • Constant shaking of the head
  • Brownish crust in the ear
  • Hair loss on the ears

If a rabbit with ear mites does not receive proper treatment, these symptoms may progress into hearing loss. The irritation may also spread to other areas of the body, such as the neck, stomach, groin areas of the rabbit.


Treatment for ear mites in rabbits often includes the administration of ivermectin, which is an anti-parasitic medication that is also used to treat head-lice in humans. Ivermectin will work to kill all the ear mites that have infected a rabbit, and once the ear mites have been destroyed, the itching and crust in the ears will begin to go away. To unlock this lesson you must be a Member. Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.

Become a Member Already a member? Log In Back

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Over 30,000 video lessons
& teaching resources‐all
in one place. Video lessons Quizzes & Worksheets Classroom Integration Lesson Plans I would definitely recommend to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline. Back Create an account to start this course today Used by over 30 million students worldwide Create an account

Explore our library of over 84,000 lessons

What is it?

A crusty, painful ear disease known as ‘canker’ caused by the rabbit ear mite, Psoroptes cuniculi

Why is it important?

It is a significant cause of pain and distress.

What is the risk?

Ear mites are highly contagious between rabbits. The skin disease may be worse if the rabbit is otherwise unwell.

What happens to the rabbit?

Mites may be carried with no outward signs. Mites infest the ear canal and feed on tissue fluid. Crusts form from dead skin cells, mites and debris especially on the underside of the ears and around the ear canal – so called ‘canker’ One or both ears may be affected, and the rabbit may hold the ear horizontally. Affected skin is very itchy and painful – ears may be rubbed and scratched to the point of self trauma. Some rabbits may be hypersensitive to mites causing severely affected skin Secondary infection is common. Mites may spread to the skin around the neck and back end of the rabbit with associated skin damage, especially if the rabbit is sick for other reasons. May be fatal if the rabbit is severely affected. Intense itching may cause seizures (this may happen after treatment as well).

How does the vet know what is going on?

The vet will check inside your rabbit’s ears and mites may be seen using the otoscope (tool used to look inside ears). Mite infestation is often suspected from the appearance of the skin. A sample of skin crust can be gently removed and examined under the microscope and ear mites and their eggs can be observed. There is a test called the ‘pinch test’ where the rabbit’s ear canal is gently massaged from the outside. If the rabbit has ear mites their reaction is to shake their head and show signs of discomfort.

What can be done?

The mainstay of treatment is medication to kill the mites. However, pain relief normally needs to be part of the treatment plan as affected rabbits have painful ears. Sometimes antiinflammatory drugs are needed to help with the itching. Antibiotics may also be given if secondary infection of the skin is present. The rabbit should be weighed to ensure accurate dosing. Ivermectin-based medications are often prescribed. It is normal to give one dose, then to repeat two weeks and four weeks later. Some eggs may remain on the hairs or within the environment and may not be killed by the first treatment, which is why follow up and repeat treatment is important. DO NOT USE Frontline (fipronil based) flea products for cats and dogs on rabbits – these are not safe for use in rabbits, and deaths have been reported. Flea shampoos and powders are not effective. Do not attempt to remove the skin crusts yourself – they are very painful for the rabbit. Removal by force will cause bleeding ulcers and pain. Once the mites have been killed using appropriate treatments, the crusts will fall off by themselves. The rabbit’s hind claws can be trimmed to reduce damage to skin by scratching. Sadly, rabbits who are severely debilitated may require humane euthanasia. These mites are highly contagious, so all in contact rabbits must be treated. If the affected rabbit is in a group, they should all be presumed to be affected. Mites are able to survive off the rabbit for 21 days. They can live in bedding and debris from the rabbit’s environment, so called ‘fomites’. If an ear mite infestation is identified, the rabbit’s environment must be thoroughly disinfected and treated for mites. Make sure you follow your vet’s advice as some area treatments are toxic to rabbits if used improperly.

How can I protect my pet?

Ear cleaning is not normally needed in a healthy rabbit. However regular inspection of skin and ears should be done to check for any scaly, crusty or damaged skin. Keep your rabbit’s environment clean. Quarantine and treat all newly adopted bunnies, so that if they are carrying mites, the parasites don’t spread to the other rabbits. Ear mites (Psoroptes cuniculi) are a common trouble faced by many domestic rabbit owners. This is a moderate condition, and if treated promptly, doesn’t have to become a major issue. With that said, here’s everything you need to know about ear mite infestations and your rabbit.

What are Ear Mites?

Ear mites in rabbits, or psoroptes cuniculi, are non-burrowing parasites. They are extremely small, and usually can’t be seen with the naked eye. However, the signs of an ear mite infestation can become quite obvious after some time, which is how infections are usually caught if they’re not proactively checked by an owner or a rabbit veterinarian. Ear mites can easily spread from rabbit to rabbit, or from a rabbit to their environment, and in turn, spread to other individuals. An ear mite infestation may occur in both of your rabbit’s ears, but it could also only show up in one.

Symptoms of an ear mite infestation

Although an ear mite infection is not inherently dangerous to your rabbit in the short term, it’s imperative that infestations are treated promptly in order to avoid secondary infections or more serious problems developing. As a rabbit owner, it’s vital that you’re keeping an eye on your rabbit for any unusual symptoms and behaviours. These can be great clues of a problem developing and could help you know when to take them in to see your rabbit’s veterinarian. An infestation is most easily characterized by irritation in the rabbit’s ear canal. The formation of a brown crust (sometimes called ‘cankers’), which gradually infects the ear canal from the inside out, is also a telltale sign. Symptoms of an infestation of ear mites can vary from rabbit to rabbit, but some of the most common ones to look for are:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Shaking of the head or ears
  • Inflammation/crusting in outer ear canal(s)
  • Inflammation/crusting on pinna flaps (the upper part of your rabbit’s ears)
  • Scratch marks on your rabbit’s neck, cheeks, or base of their ears
  • Droopy ear(s)
  • Hair thinning at the edge of your rabbit’s ear flaps
  • Unexplained weight loss

Bear in mind that not all rabbits will show these signs, so be sure they’re examined regularly by your veterinarian in order to catch potential infections as early as possible.

Stages of an ear mite infestation

Ear mite infections occur in two stages. In the early stages, it can be hard to recognize an infection if you’re not looking for it, since the mites are very small and prefer to stay deeper in your rabbit’s ear canal to start. However, your veterinarian may be able to catch it and begin treatment sooner by examining the inside of the ear canal and finding the early signs of irritation, crusting, etc. In moderate to severe cases, where the infection is not treated quickly enough, the mites will begin to multiply in your rabbit’s ears. The irritation will progress and crusting will become visible closer to the outside of the ear canal. The inflammation can also spread to your rabbit’s pinna flaps over time. If left untreated for too long, an ear mite infection can put your rabbit at risk for another skin infection, and in the long-term, can even cause deafness in the infected ears.

How ear mites are spread

The big problem with ear mites is how easily they can be transmitted from rabbit to rabbit. The main ways ear mites are spread between rabbits are:

  • If a rabbit has direct contact with another infected individual
  • If a rabbit spends time in an area that an infected rabbit was in in the last three weeks
  • If a rabbit was handled by humans who have recently handled an infested rabbit
  • Rabbits living in overcrowded places without proper cleaning (kennels, pet stores, etc.)


Ear mites can be a worrying problem to discover in your rabbit, and no pet owner wants to realize their beloved animal has been suffering from an infection for some time. That’s why regularly taking your rabbit in for check-ups at your veterinarian is so important. Your vet will typically do a visual exam of your rabbit’s ear canal to see if there are any signs of inflammation, irritation, or crusting. But since early infections are hard to spot with the naked eye, there may be a need to use a special tool called an otoscope (the same type of tool used for human ear exams) to take a look further into the ear canal for signs of an infestation. Your vet may also need to test samples of ear debris from your rabbit under a microscope, which will tell them if ear mites are present.

Treatment of your rabbit

If you’ve discovered an ear mite infestation in one or both of your rabbit’s ears, don’t panic! The good news is that ear mites can be easily eradicated, and if done quickly enough, can be painlessly removed without any lasting damage to your rabbit’s ears. Typically, your vet will prescribe medicine to eliminate ear mites. These include ivermectin, which is administered 2-3 times over a few weeks, as well as selamectin (better known by its brand name Revolution in North America). Your veterinarian may also recommend using antibiotics and pain relief prescriptions depending on the severity of the infection’s effects on your rabbit’s ears.

Treatment of the environment

You’ll also need to treat your rabbit’s environment if your vet has discovered an infection. Ear mites can live away from a host for up to three weeks, so diligence is vital to ensure you avoid a repeat infestation. Here’s what you need to do in order to properly treat your rabbit’s environment:

  1. Temporarily relocate your rabbit from their usual spot in a cardboard box, playpen, etc. Make sure it’s a comfortable place because they’ll need to be there for some time.
  2. Dispose of all bedding in your rabbit’s area, as it can’t be thoroughly cleaned.
  3. Consider removing wooden objects (eg. hutches) as they’re hard to clean and mites may remain in the wood.
  4. Ask your vet about rabbit-safe insecticide to treat your rabbit’s cage and area to kill any remaining mites.
  5. As a precaution, keep all rabbits out of the previously infested area for 4-6 weeks to ensure all mites are dead before reintroducing your pet to the area.

When an ear mite infestation is properly treated, your rabbit should make a full recovery within the month. Just be sure to keep an eye out for a second infection! Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

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.

Treatment and Care

The Psoroptes cuniculiis parasite is contagious, making it necessary to treat all rabbits that are in contact with the rabbit that is infected, and thoroughly clean and treat the environment in which the rabbit lives. Remove and discard all organic material from the cage, including wood or paper products, and bedding, replacing the bedding with shredded paper bedding that can be discarded. The cage should be thoroughly cleaned every day during the treatment period, with nothing reused. Combs, brushes, and grooming utensils will also need to be discarded, or thoroughly disinfected before reuse, otherwise, you will find that your rabbit has become reinfected. There are specific antiparasitic drugs, called ivermectins, that can be used to eliminate the mites from your rabbit’s ears. The crusts on the skin should not be removed, as they will only reveal exposed tissue. Once treatment has begun and the mites are no longer infesting the crusted skin, the underlying skin will be able to heal and the crusts will fall away. Other ointments and preparations that may be used for the ear may include antibiotics for any infections that are found on the outer part of the ear. Oral antibiotics will be prescribed for inner infections. If your rabbit is in pain, your veterinarian will also prescribe a mild pain reliever.

Living and Management

An ear swab and physical examination should be done one month after the initial therapy has commenced. For most patients, the prognosis is excellent. In cases where the infestation is severe, and the ear drum has ruptured due to infection, a resulting inner ear infection can lead to permanent loss of hearing. This outcome is relatively uncommon. In either case, continue to disinfect and maintain a very clean environment for your rabbit, and contact your veterinarian if it appears that there is a return of the parasites, or if your rabbit does not appear to have fully recovered.

What is Infestation of Mites in the Ear?

The rabbit ear mite, called Psoroptes cuniculi, is common in domestic rabbits. The ear mites, which are easily spread among rabbits and their environment, may infect one or both ears of your rabbit, causing irritation and crusting to occur in the infected ears. This condition can lead to significant discomfort for your rabbit and if it is not treated can lead to secondary infections in its advanced stages. Fortunately, treatment is straightforward and effective. Ear mites in domestic rabbits cause irritation to the lining of the ear and lead to the formation of thick brown crusts, often called a “canker”. Infestation of Mites in the Ear Average Cost From 318 quotes ranging from $100 — $200 Average Cost $150

Symptoms of Infestation of Mites in the Ear in Rabbits

A rabbit that has ear mites may or may not show symptoms of infestation and one or both ears may be affected. Symptoms of ear mites in rabbits include the following:

  • Scratching and/or shaking their head or ears
  • Chewing their ears
  • Inflammation and crusting of the external ear canal of one or both ears
  • Crusting on the pinna flaps of one or both ears
  • Evidence of scratching at the skin of the neck, cheeks or base of the ears
  • Drooping of one or both ears
  • Hair thinning along the edges of the ear flaps
  • Weight loss

Types Early stages — In early stages of infestation, the ear mites enter the deeper parts of the rabbit’s external ear canal. At this stage, the mites won’t be visible and you may not realize there is a problem. A veterinarian looking into the ear canals of your rabbit may notice the first crusts which will lead to early diagnosis. Moderate to advanced stages — If the mite infestation is not diagnosed and treated, it will worsen and the issue will be easily visible. The ear mites will multiply, leading to more crusting and inflammation and extending from your rabbit’s ear canal to its pinna. If left untreated, it may lead to a secondary bacterial infection of your rabbit’s skin or more serious ear infections and deafness. Top

Causes of Infestation of Mites in the Ear in Rabbits

Ear mites are very contagious and are spread the following ways:

  • Direct contact with a rabbit that is infected. The mites will climb from one rabbit to another
  • Spending time in the environment where an infected rabbit has been (an uninfected rabbit may contract mites from flakes of the crust the infected rabbit has scratched or shaken off); mites are able to survive away from their host animal for days to weeks depending on humidity and temperature
  • Through the hands and clothes of the rabbit owner or caretaker from handling more than one rabbit
  • The risk of transmission is higher when many rabbits live close to each other in overcrowded quarters (hutches, pet shops, shelters, breeding facilities)
  • Infestations are typically worse when rabbits are living under stress (internal or external stress)


Diagnosis of Infestation of Mites in the Ear in Rabbits

When diagnosing ear mites, the veterinarian will first do a visual exam. Depending on the location of the ear mites, this may or may not be enough to confirm the diagnosis. The veterinarian may then use an otoscope to look far down into the ear canals of your rabbit for signs of crusting or to see the actual mites. Another option is to get a sample of the debris from the ear. The veterinarian will then look at the sample under a microscope. Your rabbit’s ears may be painful and the veterinarian and you, as the rabbit’s owner, should be careful when handling them. Top

Treatment of Infestation of Mites in the Ear in Rabbits

While your rabbit is treated through medication, his environment should also be treated so that your rabbit is not re-infected. Treating the Rabbit Avermectins are able to successfully treat ear mites in rabbits. Options include:

  • Ivermectin: Given as an injectable dosage, in two or three treatments from 10-21 days apart
  • Selamectin (also called Revolution in the US or Stronghold in Europe); this will usually be given in a 20 mg dose applied topically every seven days
  • While avermectin compounds do not kill the eggs of the ear mites, the medication will stay in the tissue and kill the larvae.

Treating the Environment Rabbit ear mites can live for up to three weeks away from the host animal, therefore it is imperative that your rabbit’s environment be treated to avoid re-infection.

  • First, set up temporary quarters for your rabbit, using a large box or crate and bedding that can be thrown away
  • Remove and dispose of any bedding in your rabbit’s environment
  • An insecticide that is safe for rabbits can be used on the hutch or cage. Make sure to read the label or speak with your veterinarian to be sure that what you are using is not toxic to your rabbit; in the case of wood hutches, replacement may be the best option as it is hard to clean and remove mites that are in the wood
  • No rabbits should be in the environment for 4 to 6 weeks, unless they have also been treated, to make sure that the mites are gone

Top Worried about the cost of Infestation Of Mites In The Ear treatment? Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Infestation of Mites in the Ear in Rabbits

Treatment is typically effective and unless a secondary infection has developed, the veterinarian may not request a follow-up appointment. Should your rabbit have a secondary infection, additional follow-up and treatment may be required. Once treatment is underway, the medication administered should lead to the crusts falling off on their own or being easy to remove. The infected rabbit should be moved to temporary quarters while his regular environment is treated. Top

Infestation of Mites in the Ear Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *