Rabbit Ear Mites

Published Dec. 19, 2023
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In This Article


What Are Rabbit Ear Mites?

Ear mites are a common parasite in pet rabbits, causing irritation and painful sores in the ear. Psoroptes cuniculi, or P. cuniculi, is the microscopic mite responsible for this infection worldwide. P. cuniculi is one of the most common reasons for ear infections (otitis) in rabbits, and it’s why many sick rabbits require veterinary care and treatment.

Fortunately, ear mites in rabbits are relatively easy for veterinary professionals to diagnose and treat. When caught early and treated appropriately, rabbits can recover completely.

Symptoms of Rabbit Ear Mites

Ear mites bite and live on the skin of the ear canal and the inside of the long, external part of the rabbit’s ear (the pinna). The mite’s saliva and feces cause an intense inflammatory reaction, causing reddish-brown discharge and thick crusts. The mites then eat the discharge and crusts, causing a cycle of infection and itching.

Signs of ear mites in rabbits include:  

  • Intense itching

  • Ear scratching

  • Ear drooping

  • Head shaking

  • Head tilt

  • Reddish-brown ear discharge and crusting

  • Inflamed and bloody ear canals

  • Restlessness

  • Lethargy

  • Decreased appetite

While ear mites primarily infest the ears, severe infections may extend to other parts of a rabbit’s body, including:

  • Face

  • Dewlap

  • Neck

  • Trunk

  • Limbs

  • Feet

  • Abdomen

  • Perineal regions—the area under the tail, including external genitals and anus

Some rabbits with ear mite infestations are asymptomatic. They often don’t show any signs of illness—sometimes for years—until they are under stress with illness or poor environmental conditions.

Causes of Ear Mites in Rabbits

Mites are transmitted by direct physical contact with another animal or a contaminated environment. P. cuniculi is an obligate parasite that requires a host to complete their entire lifecycle. However, they can live in the environment up to 21 days—especially in warm and humid conditions.

Rabbits are the primary host for P. cunculi; however, they are also found on goats, sheep, horses, donkeys, and mules. The parasites may also infect dogs and cats.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Ear Mites in Rabbits

Veterinarians may have a tentative diagnosis of P. cuniculi based on examination alone, but a definitive diagnosis requires microscopic examination of the ear. This test is called a cytology and is easily performed by veterinarians.

P. cuniculi is a relatively large mite, visible on low magnification settings. An ear cytology can also diagnose secondary bacterial and yeast infections, as well.

Routine blood work cannot diagnose ear mites in rabbits; however, it does provide important information regarding the overall health of the rabbit. Common blood abnormalities secondary to rabbit ear mites include:

  • Changes in white blood cells

  • Changes in blood protein levels

Treatment of Rabbit Ear Mite

Rabbit ear mites can be treated with a variety of medications, including:

Always check with a veterinarian regarding dosage, as rabbits can be very sensitive to medications.

The ear crusts caused by P. cuniculi are extremely painful. Never remove or clean the discharge and crusts in a non-sedated rabbit. The crusts typically resolve on their own during and after treatment.

Secondary ear infections should also be treated with rabbit-safe antibiotics. Severe P. cuniculi infestations are painful, so sedation is important for the rabbit’s comfort. Nutritional support may be required if the rabbit is not eating.

Recovery and Management of Rabbit Ear Mites

Rabbits with ear mites require multiple follow-up visits with veterinarians to monitor their response to treatment. Rabbits with mild cases of ear mites typically recover completely with no long-term side effects. Those that have additional medical issues, such as a head tilt, may not recover completely.

It's vital to monitor rabbits during the recovery period to ensure they are not lethargic and are eating normally. Rabbits have very sensitive GI systems, and it’s truly an emergency if they stop eating even for short periods of time. Contact your veterinarian if your rabbit doesn’t eat for eight hours or more and with any concerns about your rabbit’s eating or behavior.

Never house rabbits with other animals that have ear mites, and don’t allow your bunny to have contact with wild rabbits. Make sure to clean their environment often throughout treatment to prevent re-infestation. Have a veterinarian examine any new rabbits before introducing them to pets at home to prevent exposure.

Rabbit Ear Mites FAQs

How do I know if my bunny has ear mites?

Ear mites are one of the most common causes for itchy rabbit ears, and a veterinarian can diagnose ear mites with a microscopic evaluation.

How do I get rid of mites on my rabbit?

Veterinarians use a variety of anti-parasiticides to treat ear mites. Often, treatment is relatively easy for both the pet parent and rabbit.

What is the brown stuff in my rabbit's ears?

Brown or reddish-brown discharge in rabbit’s ears may be a sign of ear infection or ear mites. If the ears are painful or if there is any other sign of illness, contact a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. 

Featured Image: David-Prado/iStock via Getty Images Plus


  1. Brooks DVM, ABVP (Canine & Feline), Eric E. Veterinary Information Network, Inc. Ear Mites in Rabbits (Exotic Pets). 2019.

  2. Antinoff DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice), Natalie. Lafeber Vet. Otitis in Rabbits. 2011.

  3. Mayer DVM, DABVP (ECM), DECZM, DACZM, Joerg. Merck Veterinary Manual. Parasitic Diseases of Rabbits. 2022.


Lauren Jones, VMD


Lauren Jones, VMD


Dr. Lauren Jones graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2010, after receiving her bachelor's degree...

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