Why is My Rabbit Scratching Ears and Shaking Head?

If you notice your rabbit is frequently scratching their ears and shaking their head, it’s an indication that something’s not quite right with their ear health. These symptoms are often telltale signs of discomfort or even pain in rabbits.

Ear issues can be common in these small mammals, and identifying the cause early is crucial for their well-being.

As a vet specializing in rabbits, I’ve seen my fair share of ear-related problems, ranging from mites to infections.

The rabbit’s ear is a delicate structure that can be prone to various ailments affecting their quality of life. Restless behavior such as scratching and head shaking is your bunny’s way of telling you that they need help.

Addressing these symptoms promptly can prevent more severe issues, such as loss of hearing or systemic illness.

Key Takeaways

  • Persistent ear scratching and head shaking are signs of ear discomfort in rabbits.
  • Early detection and diagnosis are crucial to treat and prevent further complications.
  • Consulting a vet at the first sign of ear trouble ensures the right care and treatment for your rabbit.
Rabbit ear checkup

Understanding Rabbit Ear Health

Itchy Bunny Ears | Critter Fixers: Country Vets

When it comes to our floppy-eared friends, maintaining healthy ears is critical. As a vet specializing in rabbits, I’ve seen my fair share of ear issues, so let’s get to the bottom of what keeps those ears perky and healthy.

Basics of Rabbit Ear Anatomy

Rabbit ears aren’t just adorable; they’re complex structures that require care.

The outer ear is what we see – the long, upright part that rabbits can rotate to catch sounds.

The middle ear contains the eardrum and tiny bones that transmit sound. And the inner ear is crucial for balance.

It’s a mistake to think that bigger ears mean bigger problems; regardless of size, all rabbits’ ears need regular checks to ensure they’re free of debris or infections.

Common Rabbit Ear Issues

In my practice, ear infections are a common ailment. Symptoms include scratching, head shaking, or a foul odor.

Also, ear mites are tiny critters that can cause intense itching, leading to scratching and shaking. They leave crusty deposits in the ears that need treatment. Here’s a brief table summarizing these issues:

IssueSymptomsCommon Treatments
Ear InfectionsOdor, discharge, painAntibiotics, cleaning
Ear MitesItching, crustsAntiparasitic meds, ear cleaning

Among these, ear infections, if left untreated, can lead to serious complications, including deafness — a fact I stress to all my rabbit-owning clients.

Regular cleaning and checks are your best bet for preventing these issues.

Signs of Ear Problems in Rabbits

Signs of Ear Problems in Rabbits

When you notice your rabbit constantly scratching its ears and shaking its head, it’s a clear signal something’s not right. Let’s explore what these signs might indicate from my experience as a vet treating our furry friends.

Scratching Ears

Excessive scratching is often the first clue that your rabbit might be struggling with an ear issue.

It’s not uncommon in my practice to see rabbits with irritated ears, sometimes even to the point where they’ve caused sores from all the scratching. This can be a sign of ear mites, infection, or another irritant within the ear canal.

Shaking Head

If your rabbit is shaking its head frequently, this indicates discomfort or pain in the ears.

In my years of caring for rabbits, those frequent shakes are their way of trying to relieve irritation or remove a bothersome presence, like the dander from ear mites, in the ears.

Other Symptoms to Watch For

Ear dischargeCould indicate infection or mites
Redness and SwellingOften associates with inflammation or infection
Odor from earsAn uncommon but concerning sign of a possible bacterial condition
Drooping of the earA possible sign of a more severe infection or mite infestation

Possible Causes of Ear Scratching and Head Shaking

Possible Causes of Ear Scratching and Head Shaking

When your rabbit begins scratching its ears and shaking its head, it’s a clear sign that something isn’t right. Let’s explore the most common culprits I’ve encountered in my veterinary practice.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny parasites that can infest your rabbit’s ears, leading to intense itching.

If left untreated, the irritation from ear mites can result in excessive scratching and discomfort. Symptoms typically include:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Head shaking
  • Crusts and scales inside the ear


Bacterial or fungal ear infections are a common cause of ear discomfort in rabbits. These infections can cause:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Discharge


Just like humans, rabbits can suffer from allergies that cause ear irritation.

Common allergens might include:

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Food ingredients

Allergies can lead to:

  • Inflammation
  • Ear scratching

Foreign Objects

Lastly, foreign objects in the ear can bother rabbits immensely. Things like:

  • Seeds
  • Grass awns

can become lodged in the ear canal and cause:

  • Irritation
  • Discomfort
  • Head shaking

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis and Treatment of ear problem

When I see rabbits in my practice exhibiting ear scratching and head shaking, I immediately think of common ear-related issues. My first step is to diagnose the cause, then move on to the appropriate treatment.

Veterinary Diagnosis

Veterinary examination is pivotal.

When your bunny comes to visit me, I’ll start with a thorough check of their ears.

I look for signs of infection, such as redness or discharge, which can indicate bacteria or yeast problems.

If I suspect ear mites, common culprits for this behavior, I might take an ear swab sample. These pests are usually not visible to the naked eye, so examining under a microscope is necessary.

Treatment Options

Treatment will depend on what’s causing the trouble.

If it’s ear mites, medication to eliminate the pests is necessary, often in the form of ear drops.

For bacterial or yeast infections, antibiotics or antifungal treatments are the usual route.

ProblemTreatment Option
Ear MitesEar drops medication
Bacterial InfectionAntibiotics
Yeast InfectionAntifungal treatment

Regular cleaning of your rabbit’s habitat and follow-up appointments with me help prevent the recurrence of these pesky problems.

It’s important to complete the full course of medication to ensure all the mites or bacteria causing discomfort are gone for good.

Prevention and Tips for Healthy Ears

Prevention and Tips for Healthy Ears

Maintaining your rabbit’s ear health is crucial to prevent distressing symptoms such as scratching and head shaking. In my practice, I emphasize proactive measures.

Regular Ear Checks

To prevent ear problems, I recommend checking your rabbit’s ears weekly.

Look for signs of redness, discharge, or unusual odors.

A healthy rabbit’s ear should be clean, pinkish, and free from any crust or dark debris which could indicate mites or infection.

What to Look For:

  • Cleanliness: The ear should look clean, without excess wax or dirt.
  • Color: A healthy inner ear has a light pink hue.
  • Odor: There should be no strong smells emanating from the ear.

Cleanliness and Hygiene

Keep your rabbit’s living area clean and dry, as dampness can harbor bacteria and parasites.

Bedding should be changed regularly to prevent the buildup of debris that can lead to ear issues.

In my clinic, I’ve seen rabbits develop ear infections from unkempt living conditions more often than you’d think.

Cleaning Routine:

  1. Bedding: Change at least once a week.
  2. Litter Boxes: Clean daily to prevent the spread of parasites.

Diet and Nutrition

A balanced diet keeps your rabbit healthy and supports its immune system, which is crucial for preventing ear problems.

Ensure your rabbit’s diet includes plenty of hay, fresh vegetables, and a limited number of pellets.

I’ve observed that rabbits with a strong immune system from proper nutrition are less likely to develop ear issues.

Dietary Essentials:

  • Hay: Unlimited, provides essential fiber.
  • Vegetables: A variety for micronutrients.
  • Pellets: High-quality and in moderation.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

If your rabbit is scratching their ears or shaking their head, I want you to be alert to the need for veterinary care.

As a vet with a soft spot for rabbits, I’ve seen many cases where timely attention made a world of difference.

Here’s what you need to look for:

  • Persistent Scratching or Shaking: If your rabbit continues this behavior for more than a day, it’s time to call the vet.
  • Redness or Swelling: Ear skin that looks inflamed is a sign of irritation or infection.
  • Discharge or Odor: Any unusual smell or discharge from the ears is a red flag.
  • Behavior Change: Is your rabbit less active or avoiding touch? They might be in pain.
  • Head Tilting: Tilting their head to one side might denote a serious issue, like an ear infection.
SignAction Required
Persistent BehaviorSchedule a vet visit
Redness/SwellingConsult the vet as soon as possible
Discharge/OdorImmediate vet attention needed
Sudden Behavior ChangeCall your vet for advice
Head TiltingVisit your vet promptly for examination

In my practice, I’ve seen ear mites, infections, and even allergies cause similar symptoms.

It’s vital not to self-diagnose as ear issues can escalate quickly. A thorough check-up can save your rabbit from discomfort and potentially more severe health issues.


ear scratching and head shaking

When I see rabbits in my practice displaying symptoms like ear scratching and head shaking, it often points to common but treatable issues.

Ear infections are a frequent diagnosis, where I usually observe redness or discharge in the ear accompanied by the rabbit’s discomfort.

Ear mites similarly provoke shaking and scratching, being tiny parasites that cause intense itching.

Dental problems can also present in curious ways. If a rabbit has a tooth issue, the pain can radiate to their ears.

On a lighter note, a rabbit might simply be shaking dirt or water out of its ear, just like we might shake off water after a shower.

Preventative care is crucial. Regular check-ups can catch these issues early on. Plus, keeping living spaces clean helps dodge mite infestations.

Here’s a quick reference table that summarizes the action steps:

Ear InfectionDischarge/RednessVet visit for examination/medication
Ear MitesIntense scratchingVet visit for ear drops and cleaning
Dental IssuesChanges in eating habitsX-rays and dental examination
CleanlinessShaking without other signsRegular cleaning of habitat


Why is my rabbit scratching its ears?

Your rabbit could be scratching its ears due to an ear mite infestation. These little pests cause irritation, leading to excessive scratching. I’ve also seen rabbits get agitated due to ear infections or wax build-up.

Could it be something other than mites or infections?

Certainly! Allergies can play a role too. Some bunnies I’ve treated reacted to environmental factors like pollen, which made their ears itch.

What are ear mites, exactly?

Ear mites are tiny parasites that thrive in the warm, moist environment of a rabbit’s ear canal. They’re contagious and can spread between pets.

How do rabbits show they’re bothered by their ears?

Chances are your rabbit will shake its head and scratch incessantly. These are clear signs to me that something’s up with their ears.

What should I do if I suspect my rabbit has ear mites or an infection?

Visit a vet, like me, pronto! It’s important to get a proper diagnosis. Treatment usually includes medicated drops, and for mites, an anti-parasitic medication. Remember, avoiding over-the-counter treatments without consulting a vet is key, as some can be harmful.

SignPotential CauseNext Step
Scratching EarEar Mites/InfectionVet Visit
Shaking HeadDiscomfort/IrritationCheck for other symptoms
Redness/DischargeLikely InfectionSeek treatment

Maurice Alice

Dr. Maurice Alice is a veterinary expert with over 10 years of experience in exotic animal medicine, specializing in dental care for rabbits and rodents. He is dedicated to providing exceptional care for his patients and is passionate about promoting animal welfare.

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