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Rabbit ears not always pretty

Dr. Jeff NicholALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: We have had a truly organic, constantly changing “rabbit garden” within our backyard. Bunny Town USA has had many happy years and happy, healthy rabbit broods. Three years ago we had wild mice and a feral cat. Sometime after, the rabbits began their battle with mites. Even in the cold the rabbits have heavily crusted ears. They have self-aborted/not had baby bunnies for two years. We are down to five elderly rabbits, surviving but not thriving. It has become a “beaten down bunny town world.”

Dr. Nichol: Bunny Town needs a revival. Rather than or, if you prefer, in addition to a traveling preacher you should apply modern medicine. Your veterinarian can examine an ear swab and show you the microscopic mites, Psoroptes cuniculi. They’re ugly little devils with serrated mouth parts that have hacked at your bunnies’ gorgeous ears for years. Your rabbits have been itchy, restless and stressed. The youngsters and expectant mothers have suffered the most. Depressed appetites and failure to thrive are especially common in rabbits who are crowded. Cats and other creatures have been known to carry ear mites.

Your wascally wabbits were asymptomatic for a time, patiently playing host to these pernicious parasites until a stressor allowed the mites to multiply like, well, like rabbits. Affected ears accumulate thick layers of reddish-brown, crusted exudate. Even a gentle touch would trigger vigorous head shaking.

Rather than treating your bunnies’ ears directly, you’ll apply a spot-on liquid medicine to the skin between their shoulder blades. Prescription Advantage Multi and Revolution are both safe and effective for rabbits with ear mites. Fipronil (Frontline, Effipro) should be avoided in bunnies.

Bunny Town’s future is so bright its citizens will have to wear shades – but – those chewing little bugs will return unless you clean and disinfect the environment during treatment. Ear mites can survive up to 21 days off their hosts. Be sure to carefully inspect all rabbit ears prior to adding any new inhabitants to your colony. The Nichol family does not have a rabbit, but we do have rabbit ears. But that’s only because we’re too cheap to pay for cable.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

 

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