Sunday, August 30, 2015


There are days around here when every is peachy keen.

Then there are days where, when it rains, it pours. 

The last month on the homestead it has been a down pour of unfortunate events. My meat birds got sour crop, one corner of my garden was mostly demolished by my mare, oh ya and my whole sunflower patch, worst of all, my meat rabbits succumbed to ear mites...

Though this is the first time I have dealt with ear mites in rabbits, I have much experience with them in dogs. Many of the dogs I have owned have suffered from ear mites at one time or another. They are easy to treat when noticed and diagnosed the early. 

I dearly wish I had taken some photos for y'all of my rabbits. I completely spaced in the frenzy of the first few minutes that I forget to document. As I scrambled around in the barn going from cage to cage checking soft fuzzy ears, the very last thing on my mind was trying to hold a rabbit still with one hand while photographing with the other. And be it known that I do no have anything more fancy than an iPhone camera... something I mean to amend ASAP..


I first noticed the infestation on my buck, Chester, who I later discovered had the worst case of all the adults. Luckily none of the kits; the ones headed for slaughter, were infested. Chester was exhibiting a reddish scabby crust inside his ears. What were once soft flexible ears, were now hardened, still soft, though they had lost some fur. 

Not a good sign...  In all my research I discovered that once they begin to lose fur on the outside of their ears or on their neck, the mites are beginning to spread. Luckily I did not pick at the scabs, which are caused from incessant itching by the rabbit, because this will cause more bleeding, feeding the mites, their eggs, and causing sever pain to the rabbit. It is better to treat the rabbit then wait for the crust to either resolve itself and fall off, or gently remove it a few days after.

I frantically searched the web for answers to my questions. I turned to many of the homestead blogs I read for support, but I exhausted that effort quickly. Nothing. Nothing that could explain a step by step plan. Until, I found several rabbit breeding forums, many of which had a variety of ideas from different rabbit folk. I asked some questions and found some other conversations that made this learning curve much smoother. 

I found out that this problem could have been avoided. And that to my amazement there are quite a few ways to treat mites in rabbits, some even vet and medication free. At this point I was jumping for joy at the fact of organically treating this problem from home. Out of the several options I just so happened to have two on hand at that very moment. 

Treatment option 1: Almond oil

I know right? Who'da thunk it! Certainly not me..

Many other oils are also sufficient like mineral oil and olive oil. There are also several essential oils that help.

The premise of the oil is to smother the bugs and their eggs. This way the pest dies before it can lay more eggs. Basically you drip the oil down into the ear canal, you can expect the rabbit to begin shaking its head. This is a good sign as it helps the oils flow through the ear more freely. 

I took a cotton ball, soaked it in oil, rubbed it inside the ear while letting some drip down inside. This can be done once a day, every 10 days until gone. You can begin removing the built up crud and scabs from the ear with a q tip or tweeter once it begins to loosen up and fall off. 

Treatment option 2: Ivermectin 1% administered at .018 cc/lb of live weight

Going the medication route won't always be my go to choice. Had the mites only infested Chester then I may have gone with only the almond oil. Unfortunately I was not so lucky. I care about the well being of my animals, as they provide a sacrifice, and my family eats. So, when your entire colony of rabbits becomes infected you do whatever possible. And in this circumstance that meant medically AND organically tackling the issue. 

For rabbits, it can be very hard to dose the proper amount of ivermectin, it is technically a swine and cattle wormer, so anyone at a feed store can't really give solid recommendations against the proper usage of the product. The dose will be on such small scale it can be easy to over dose the rabbit. Another issue can be finding a small enough syringe for the little amount of liquid you'll actually need. If you can find a 1 cc syringe that will be your best chance. I simply weighed my rabbits, each adult was roughly 5 lbs, then I multiplied it by the amount per pound. 

5.0 x 0.018 = 0.09 cc Ivermectin

A simple subcutaneous infection was needed right between the shoulder blades. Be sure to pull up the skin and make your stick at a 45 degree angle. If you've never done a sub q before I suggest having someone experienced show you, or at least employ some you tube videos... wow I never thought how easy it would be for me to do that...hmm food for though.. I digress.. I chose this administration for Chester since his case was most severe. For the girls I simply went the route of squirting it into their mouths, more like dropping, literally it was basically a drop, maybe even less. 

Upkeep and prevention is now a must to keep the rabbits healthy.

Simple changes in the barn need to made in order to eliminate the risk of this becoming a recurring condition. We need to either paint or replace the legs of our hutches all together. Since they are wood, they naturally attract dust and mites. I'm opting for painting since it seems like the faster-easier option. 

Keeping their bedding extra clean is necessary as always and beginning to bleach the hutches regularly. I poured some bleach into a spray bottle, added some essential oils, and whamo! Homemade mite killing hutch cleaner. I removed all rabbits and gave their cages a good spray down.

I can also retreat with the ivermectin every 4 weeks for 3 dosages if I'm worried. But honestly within days I noticed the scabs had receded and fluffy ears taking on their former suppleness. The rabbits don't seem sluggish anymore and have quite their itching. Thank the homestead gods!