If your rabbit does not hold its head straight, this is not a good sign. It is not always caused by parasites that infect the brain – an ear infection is also conceivable. Your animal world tells you how you can prevent it.
When rabbits tilt their heads, this is colloquially dismissed as “torticollis”. Veterinarian Melina Klein thinks this term is problematic.
“This is misleading because tilting the head does not represent a specific disease, it is merely a symptom,” says Klein.
This could indicate a parasite called E. cuniculi. The pathogen can attack the nervous system and lead, among other things, to paralysis or tilted head postures.
In particular, in rabbit breeds with drooping ears, the so-called ram rabbits, in many cases an otitis media or inner ear infection is also the cause, says Klein.
Ear Infections in Rabbits are Often Detected Too Late
“I regularly hear of tragic cases in which the diagnosis of E. cuniculi was made simply because the head was tilted. But the actual cause, usually a painful ear infection, is not recognized for a long time, ”says the vet. If the head is tilted, she, therefore, recommends further diagnostics, such as blood tests for E. cuniculi, x-rays, or a CT scan of the skull.
Melina Klein advises owners of ram rabbits that their animals have an extremely high tendency to develop ear infections. The owners should pay special attention to regular ear care and preventive examinations that go beyond simply looking into the outer ear with X-rays.
“In order to keep the outer auditory canal of Aries rabbits clean and to prevent a descending infection into the middle ear, the ears should be rinsed regularly,” advises the veterinarian. A saline solution or a special ear cleaner from the veterinarian is suitable for rinsing. However, some ear cleaners should only be used if it has been clarified beforehand whether the eardrum is intact.
Ear Cleaning? That’s the Right Way
The vet explains how to proceed with flushing: The syringe with the flushing liquid is first warmed to body temperature. Then the rabbit is firmly fixed, the ear is pulled straight up and the liquid is poured into it. For this purpose, saline solution or a special ear cleaner is put into the vertically upwardly drawn auricle by the veterinarian, and the base of the ear is carefully massaged.
“Then the rabbit will instinctively shake its head,” says Klein. This will bring fluid, wax, and secretions upwards and can be wiped off the auricle with a soft cloth.
Rabbits with a chronic runny nose, on the other hand, tend to develop infections from the nasal area into the middle ear. Here, too, X-rays or a CT are essential for clarification.