Rabbit Ears

Lop eared rabbits are really prone to ear infections – but why?rabbit-2531800_1280
What is going on with these ears?

Types of ear infections
Otitis external, otitis media and otitis interns – the external ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. This discussion is all about the external or outer ear. In fact, it’s the only part of the ear we can see without more advanced testing.

The outer ear consists of the pinna and the ear canal.  It stops at the eardrum, or tympanic membrane. The middle ear is just on the other side of that thin structure…and hopefully we can’t see into it during a regular ear exam. That would mean your eardrum was ruptured (ouch!).

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In many species the ear canal is broken into two parts – the vertical canal and the horizontal canal. Mainly because part goes up and down while the other is oriented sideways. This doesn’t hold true in rabbits. It’s basically just a slant down to the eardrum. In standard rabbits this canal has cartilage which allows it to maintain its shape – just like in our ears and nose- it’s bendy but holds shape.

In lops, there is cartilage in the outer portion of the canal, but not the inner…so the ear flops over.  Keep in mind that ear canals are designed to help material and debris exit the ear by moving things up and out. Imagine what happens when material starting at the eardrum try’s to get out of a lops’ ear…it hits that right angle bend and comes to a halt.

So what happens?
…debris builds up, bacteria or yeasts get stuck, maybe things get a little moist…and you get an infection.

Sometimes this infection starts in the middle ear and bursts through the ear drum to extend into the outer ear. Sometimes the reverse happens. But we can’t see the ear drum once debris or infection has set up shop. In order to find out more we can try to flush and clean the ear canal under anesthesia or image it using CT scans. X-rays of the skull can provide us with some info but a CT really gives you a great view of what is going on.

Now I know that a CT scan for your bunny may be out of reach financially. But I look forward to when they become cheaper and more common. Already there are researchers studying how to take awake CT scans. This helps both your pocketbook and your bunny since no matter how hard we try to minimize it…there is always some health risks with anesthesia.

So what do we do?
The answer is not clear but the more we look into it, the better our chance of figuring this out.  Right now, there is some thought that prophylactic ear cleaning may be helpful. Products containing tris-EDTA are a good choice. Please be careful what you put in your bun’s ears and check with your rabbit vet. I’ve heard of stories of folks putting bleach in animal ears and I’m sure they wouldn’t have done so if they knew just what pain and damage they were causing.

Which Size Cup?

Which Size Cup?baking-149263_640
During a recent conversation with a client, I recommended she measure the pellets offered and make sure they are no more than 1/4 cup (for a rabbit).  She asked me “which size cup?”.  I was very confused.

Sometimes I feel the most difficult part of the job is communication.  I didn’t know how to respond to the client – finally I suggested a dry measuring cup. She still seemed confused and was happy to learn that measuring cups are standard sizes.  I recommended she go out to a store with kitchen supplies and get a fresh set.

“Whenever You Assume, You Make an Ass out of You and Me.” 
I’ve been told stories, by dog and cat vets, that when asked to bring in the cup used to measure their pet’s food an owner brought in a 7-11 big gulp!  That is, technically, a cup – if you assume cup is referring to the container rather than the measurement.

But really, anything you do for a while becomes natural.  It seems like everybody does the same thing…until you find someone who doesn’t.  Boy that keeps you on your toes.  I shocked my father one year when I asked him for advice on a CPA – I needed some help with my taxes.  He stared at me…”how have you been getting your taxes done?”  I used to do them myself…he asked how I learned.  After a minute, I informed my father that my mother sat me down when I was 15 and told me what to do.  After that, I was responsible for my own taxes.  He never knew…

At least we each learned something that day – she learned how measuring cups work and I learned that some people haven’t been taught how measuring cups work.

Bands…What Are They Good For?

Can a Band on a Pet Bird be Good?

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Sure – there are some times when a band is very useful

  1. International Travel may require unique identification and some birds are too small for microchips.
  2. Identification in a breeding situation ensures that birds are not mixed up – which is especially important if there are subtle health issues.
  3. A band, if the number is known, is a way to prove the bird belongs to you.

So Why is a Band ever Bad?
When it is unnecessary.

  1. Larger birds can be microchipped.
  2. Birds that have left a group situation no longer need their bands.
  3. Since there is no central database for bands they cannot be used to track down an owner.

Why Should You Remove a Band?
The main reason – to prevent injury.  We see birds who damage or break their legs because the band got caught on something.  They can irritate or annoy birds causing them to bite at the band.  If the leg is injured it may be difficult or impossible to remove the band without causing further injury.

Jackie’s Band Problem
Here is Jackie – a cockatiel.  She came in for an injured leg.  You can see that the skin of her leg has swollen around the band:

Luckily we were able to remove the band and with supportive care the leg has healed well…if a little different from her other leg!

It could have been much worse – the pressure can cause damage to the bone.  In Jackie’s case, she didn’t need surgery to repair the leg since there was no exposed bone and she still had good blood flow to all the digits.  Her smallest toe was damaged – it is likely permanently pushed forward due to the swelling.  Maybe it too will heal with time.