What is Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear?
If left untreated ear infections can lead to deafness, so it is essential that if you suspect your pet is suffering from this that you contact your veterinarian. This condition can appear similar to other health concerns; verification of the exact cause is crucial to the treatment protocol. Factors like parasitic infestation and lesions in the ear can lead to inflammation. Due to the severity of some cases, lasting effects such as head tilt may occur, particularly if treatment was delayed.
Inner and middle ear inflammation can occur for various reasons in rabbits. These infections are often caused by the presence of bacteria, fungi, yeast or parasites. They can occur in one or both ears. Clinical signs may be noticed such as depression, shaking or itching of ears or ataxia.
Symptoms of Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear in Rabbits
The symptoms of inner and middle ear inflammation are similar to many vestibular diseases and include:
- Shaking of head
- Scratching at ears
- Leaning to one side
There are numerous different pathogens that can lead to inner and middle ear inflammation. These include but are not limited to:
- Pasteurella multocida
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Escherichia coli
- Pseudomonas sp.
- Yeast infection (sporadic cases of yeast infection, e.g. Candida sp. or Pityrosporum sp., are found in rabbits)
- Fungal infection by Cryptococcus is rare
Causes of Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear in Rabbits
The inflammation is caused by organisms being introduced to the inner ear via the eustachian tube or from the external ear canal. Risk factors include upper respiratory tract infections, otitis externa, parasitic infection of the external ear canal, or neoplasia or other lesions of the external ear canal. There does not appear to be an age or sex bias, however, certain breeds such as lop eared rabbits have much higher incidences.
Diagnosis of Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear in Rabbits
As the symptoms of inner and middle ear infections in rabbits can mimic other vestibular diseases such as neoplasia, inner ear trauma, and traumatic disease a full clinical history is essential for a differential diagnosis.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination of your rabbit, taking into account the history of symptoms and possible incidents that may have caused these symptoms.
In order to perform an otoscopic examination of your pet’s ears the veterinarian may need to sedate your rabbit. During this time your veterinarian will also examine the pharynx and may take radiographs. This will allow your veterinarian to eliminate other possible causes such as foreign objects lodged in the ear, tumors or lesions. Middle ear infections are often clearly seen in radiographs as a grayish mass.
Your veterinarian may take a blood sample to perform a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. Raised white blood cells may indicate an infection. If possible your veterinarian will also take a sample of the discharge from the ear. If a positive result of either bacteria, yeast or parasite is returned, the diagnosis of infection can be made. This sample will also be sent to the laboratory for a culture and sensitivity test.
Treatment of Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will likely use the results from the culture and sensitivity test to determine the most effective antibiotic treatment for your pet. Your pet will be given a course of antibiotics for 4 to 6 weeks or 2 weeks after full recovery. Your vet will monitor your pet’s recovery and if there is no improvement of symptoms after 2 weeks they may change the antibiotic medication.
If your pet’s ear drum has ruptured, sterile saline lavage of the middle ear may be performed by your veterinarian. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be given to your pet to provide pain relief. As these are metabolized by the liver and kidneys, the veterinary team will assess the results of the blood tests to ensure sufficient renal function prior to administration.
If your rabbit is not eating, your veterinarian may feel that force-feeding is necessary in order for your rabbit to return to good health. Your veterinarian may use a syringe to feed your rabbit a puree such as commercially available rabbit foods ideal for compromised patients. In addition, foods such as canned pumpkin can be used. Anti-nausea medication such as metoclopramide may also be given. Fluid therapy can be used to maintain hydration and support thermoregulation in cases of fever.
Recovery of Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear in Rabbits
The earlier your rabbit receives treatment the better the prognosis. Improvement should be seen within 10 days of commencing treatment. It should be noted that if the middle ear or nerves were damaged deafness or head-tilt is often irreversible.
It is vital that your rabbit continues to eat during the illness & treatment. Offer a selection of different foods such as fresh romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, and grass hay. Encourage fluid intake by offering moistened leaves or flavored water. If your pet is refusing food, force-feeding or readmission for fluid therapy may be necessary. Contact the veterinary team if you have concerns about your rabbit’s appetite.
For your pet’s comfort provide warm, soft bedding. Due to the unsteadiness and imbalance that is often caused by ear infections, ensure your rabbit is not placed on hard or uneven flooring as it may allow risk of injury. Due to the long duration of antibiotic therapy your pet will need regular revisit appointments. In cases where surgical draining is necessary, the prognosis is poor due to the post-operative complications and risks.
Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
We woke up today to our rabbit not acting normally. He is not eating or drinking. He is falling over and is unsteady on his feet. None of the vets that see rabbits are open on the weekend. The soonest he can be seen is Monday (two days from now). Is there anything we can do til then to help Snickers?
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My name is Dasha. I live in Grodno (Belarus). I hope for your help. My decorative rabbit has problems nervous nature (nystagmus eye) .He also concerned about the ears, he scratches them.
Has he otitis media on the pictures?
Rabbits are prone to ear infections and vestibular problems which may cause the symptoms which you are describing. Deni may require antibiotics and ear cleaning solution; I know about Belarus (and it’s tractors) but I am unaware of products that pet shops may have, therefore I would recommend visiting a Veterinarian who will make a comprehensive diagnosis and prescribe treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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