If you keep rabbits, you’ll eventually have to treat their ears for mites. Here are 5 effective remedies for ear mites in rabbits, using items you probably already have around the house.
How to Treat Ear Mites in Rabbits
If you are going to raise rabbits, then eventually you’ll have the problem of ear mites. It is pretty easy to diagnose; there is an ever-growing buildup of gunk in their ears. If left untreated, they get more and more lethargic, stop eating, and … I am not sure what else, because I’ve never let it get that far. But I presume it eventually leads to a miserable death.
Ear Mite Treatment #1: Campho-Phenique
Bill is an older friend who got me started in raising rabbits. He gave me his technique for treating ear mites. Bill uses drops of Campho-Phenique in the rabbits’ ears. (Campho-Phenique is an over-the-counter medication for cold sores.) Bill told me not to worry about getting out the crud—just get the drops in down far enough to work, and the rabbit will scratch all the junk out.
As the mites die from the Campho-Phenique, they tickle the rabbit’s ears and, sure enough, the rabbits shake their heads and scratch out all the gunk. It works.
Ear Mite Treatment #2: Honey
I’ve successfully treated many rabbits with Campho-Phenique.
But always in the back of my mind I wondered, what would I do if I couldn’t get Campho-Phenique? Yes, yes, that old “store closing” concern. But I am also in love with the idea of true self-reliance. So I hit the Internet and checked out a bunch of options on home remedies using medicine I could grow or find myself.
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I decided to try the “honey” method for treating the mites. And I want to report that it is working very well.
Unlike Bill’s original method, the honey method requires first using tweezers to clean out the biggest pieces of gunk from the rabbit’s ears. It probably would have worked without cleaning it, but … I just couldn’t stand seeing it in there. I made a mixture of about a teaspoon of honey mixed with 2 teaspoons of warm water. I then put about 2 or 3 dropperfuls of the honey mixture into each ear and massaged the ears so the solution would get way down in there.
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I applied this twice a day for the first few days, and then switched to once per day.
It’s been about a week now and I can see that this method is very effective. The ears are almost completely clean and the rabbit is much, much happier.
I am planning to switch to applying the honey mix once every two days pretty soon.
FYI: Yes, the rabbit’s fur just below the ears gets a little sticky when the honey mixture gets on it. It dries out and stiffens there, but it is not a problem and doesn’t hurt the rabbit. Every couple of days I use a piece of cloth and some warm water to clean the area.
If this treatment ultimately doesn’t work, I‘ll let you know, but from what I am seeing so far, this is an excellent home remedy for treating ear mites in rabbits. The next time the problem comes up, I might try another home remedy just to test out different techniques.
How Our Readers Treat Ear Mites in Rabbits
Since I first published this article in 2014, TGN Community members have left some great comments regarding other home remedies that have worked for them to treat ear mites in rabbits. I’m including three of the recommendations below, but be sure to check out the comments section of this post to read more!
Ear Mite Treatment #3: Olive Oil
Stephanie uses olive oil successfully—a dropperful in each affected ear each day for a few days. When she does this, she says it clears up the ear mites in less than a week.
“One time, a doe had mites so bad that I was sure the bunny was going to die, the way she was rolling around aimlessly. After a day with the olive oil, she could stand upright again. By the third day, she was hopping around normally.”
Ear Mite Treatment #4: Triple Antibiotic Ointment
Debbie suggests using triple antibiotic ointment. Squeeze most of a tube down into the affected ear, and use the rest of the tube to cover the rest ear. After that, leave the ear alone. She says that most of the debris will be dislodged from the ear within a few hours, and the ear will start to heal.
“Usually within three days, the ear looks so much better. And one has to fuss with it less, which means less pain for the rabbit. Yes, it gets a tad messy, but it’s well worth it. The rabbit will bathe itself and, within a week, it will all be cleaned up!”
Ear Mite Treatment #5: Mineral Oil
Karen recommends applying mineral oil every day for 5 days, and then once more a week later.
“We don’t take the gunk out unless we can’t get the oil in. They shake it loose within a few days, and it beats scratching the ear with tweezers. This has worked every time for us!”
How Long Should You Treat Ear Mites?
Apparently, mites have a 21-day life cycle.
Why is that important?
Well, it means you have to make sure you treat for that long just to ensure you’ve wiped out every last possible egg or reproducing adult.
Click here for a handy PDF file describing ear mites, along with skin and fur mites, too. I will warn you, though, the treatments they recommend are chemically oriented. But the rest of the information is good, and the photos of these microscopic creatures are fascinating.
What Do You Think?
If you’ve successfully treated rabbit ear mites, please do put a comment down below.
This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on January 7, 2014.
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Marjory Wildcraft is the founder of The Grow Network, which is a community of people focused on modern self-sufficient living. She has been featured by National Geographic as an expert in off-grid living, she hosted the Mother Earth News Online Homesteading Summit, and she is listed in Who’s Who in America for having inspired hundreds of thousands of backyard gardens. Marjory was the focus of an article that won Reuter’s Food Sustainability Media Award, and she recently authored The Grow System: The Essential Guide to Modern Self-Sufficient Living—From Growing Food to Making Medicine.