Help! My rabbit has crusty ears!
First, let me tell you that I’m no vet. If your rabbit is your dog then please go take it to the vet for some real treatment. If you are raising your rabbits for food or would like to know the way this homesteader handled the worst ear mite infestation on planet earth without a $70 vet bill – read on.
Ear mites are the most common health issue in homestead rabbits. If your rabbit has crusty ears, you are in good company. Many rabbit keeping folks have dealt with them & lived to tell about it.
You don’t have to eat the rabbit….. unless you are hungry and you want fried rabbit for dinner.
You won’t even believe this.
Brace yourself, this story is traumatizing. Well, if you are me, it was traumatizing.
It all started with my small child running into the kitchen one lovely, unerupted, happy day on the farm. It was a good day. No one had died. No one was giving birth. No one was being processed. No one was going to the processor. A nice relaxing day on the farm.
So, she bursts into the kitchen where I am happily sipping my morning cup of joe and says, “Mommy, you need to come quick, there is something wrong with Nash’s ears.”
“They are bleeding and crusty and creepy and terrifying. You have to come now.”
So, I trot up to rabbit land to check out the creepy, terrifying ears.
I am a world-class exaggerator, and have taught my daughters well…. so I figured I was going to stroll up to the rabbit cages, check on the ears. Find that her babies had been chewing on them. Slap on a little Neosporin & be on my way back to my latte..
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
She could not have exaggerated this situation.
Gag. Horror. Heave. I’ll be on a different farm if you need me. I am NOT qualified to handle this.
There is no way to overstate the severity of her ear delimma.
I do not have a close-up picture of her ear trauma in it’s full bloom. Which is good because I’m pretty sure you don’t want to throw up. You can take a look at my face and do a little imagining. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever dealt with on the farm.
Nothing else has brought me this close to passing out.
Her ears were covered in a thick crust. Her ears were bleeding. Her ears were no longer ears. They were battered, deep fried, stiff, caking, flaking, bleeding…..
Did I mention layers and layers and layers of crusty, hard, bloody, crispy, horrid funk?
This is what I was thinking:
Oh Heavens – someone needs to kill this rabbit fast and put her out of her misery. Bless her heart.
BUT, this is our Doe. Our doe that one of my best friends gave us to be the mommy of all our future litters. The Eve of our Rabbit population. The Dawn of a new day after the dog attack killed nearly all our rabbits.
I have to TRY to save her.
And so, like any good rabbit mommy, I braced myself, recruited all my children (against their will) to come help so they could catch me if I passed out. And I proceeded to attempt the impossible. Resurrect dead ears.
Other than Jesus, I was sure no one could fix these ears. Maybe if someone had noticed sooner. Maybe if someone could perform an “ear-sectomy” and just cut the bloody things off. Maybe if she went to live at a veterinary clinic for a month. But ME on this farm. She didn’t stand a chance.
Or so I thought.
Here’s the good news….
It’s not as bad as it looks. If your rabbit needs an ear-sectomy like mine did, you don’t have to have fried rabbit for dinner. She (or he) could be on the mend in no time. Really.
It is a good idea to separate the infected rabbit from other rabbits so the mites don’t infect anyone else. Ear mites are spread by skin to skin contact, so it is contagious.
Here’s how I fixed her ears in 3 days (they were remarkably better in 24 hours)
- Coconut Oil. First I put a thick coat of coconut oil all over her ears. Smear it on the crusty stuff, the bleeding stuff, the brown stuff. Cover it all in oil. You can also use mineral oil, vegetable oil or baby oil but coconut oil does other things those cannot do, so I prefer it. The oil suffocates the mites and kills them. The oil also loosens all the crust and scabs and mite feces. Gag. Let this sit on her ears for several hours.
- Take a damp wash cloth or cotton ball and gently wipe out her ears. When you wipe out her ears EVERYTHING will come off. You just thought that crust was cemented to her poor ears. Nope, a little coconut oil and everything’s gonna slide right out of there: the oil, the crust, the funk, the scabs, the mites and the gunk will come off. It will be the worst day of your life. Not only will the wash cloth need to be burned, every time you take your hand off the rabbit she will shake her head and fling ear crust all over you, your children and the barn. Someone shoot me….. and the rabbit while you’re at it.
may will bleed. Brace yourself, because it’s gonna get bad again before it gets better. Most of the scabs and funk were out but now she was bleeding. Poor thing. Since she still had some crusty stuff in there & we were both done with me digging around in her ears with a wash cloth, I reapplied another layer of coconut oil and retreated to the house to shower, cry and drink something strong.
- The next morning DH & I walked up to the rabbit hutch carrying a .22 singing, “Kill ‘da Wabbit.” I was convinced that if she hadn’t died yet from her ear situation, I was going to end things quickly for her and put us both out of this miserable situation.
- Here is how the conversation went between me and DH the night of the Rabbit-Ear-Horror-Show
- Me: You don’t understand. She needs to die. Her ears are not ears anymore. They are crusty, bloody cement stems coming off her head and she’s in so much pain.
- DH: Ok.
- Me: She’s never made a noise in her life, but when I wiped out her ears she screamed. I know she’s in pain. You have to do something.
- DH: Ok.
- Me: A vet visit is $70. We can get a new doe from Rural King for $20
- DH: Ok.
- Me: Not to mention what the medication is going to cost…… Ugh. I think she’ll be happier if she’s dead.
- DH: Ok.
- Healing. Wouldn’t you know it – I got up to the rabbitry planning to shoot her in the head and she was hopping around and her ears were 10,000 times better. Yay! It was a miracle. She looked great. Her ears were on the mend & I was feeling more confident in my animal husbandry abilities (for now). I (gently) wiped them out again – this time the remaining funk & crust all came out. The bleeding had stopped and her ears looked like ears again. Once the crusty stuff is out it’s time to deal with some mites & heal the ears.
- Neosporin & Ear Mite Drops. From this point forward I gave her ear mite drops (from our local feed store) and slathered her ears in Neosporin to speed the healing process (and prevent infection). You can use Cat Ear Mite Drops on your rabbit (according to Rise and Shine Rabbitry) to treat the mites.
- Ears again. 3 days later you could hardly tell she was ever sick. I continued the ear mite drops according to the package directions to be sure we got them all (the eggs have a crazy long cycle so read the directions or you’ll have ear mites again in a month). I do not want a reinfestation. Shutter.
We have a new “rabbit chore list” that includes checking everyone’s ears. I really have no earthly idea how her ear mites got so out of hand without anyone noticing. The kids are in and out of the rabbit hutches all the time.
Anyhow, hopefully we’ll catch it much sooner if it ever happens again.
Since I am relatively a newbie in keeping rabbits (in year 2 with rabbits at the writing of this post) and many of you are experts – please, please leave your best ear mite tips and helps in the comments below – I have a lot to learn.
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