Recent research by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has shown a ‘shocking’ extent of health problems in lop-eared rabbits compared to rabbits with erect ears.
Rabbits have lop ears due to a weakness in the cartilage at the base of the ear which causes the ear to fold down on itself. This fold prevents the ear from draining properly and can lead to a painful build-up of wax and infection. The ear canal is also narrowed. These problems can lead to deafness and chronic pain.
Lop-eared rabbits have also been shown to have a higher level of dental disease which can also cause pain and difficulty eating.
Rabbits are not very good at showing signs of pain so it may not always be easy to tell if your pet rabbit is in discomfort. Signs that can be shown include:
- reduced food intake
- taking longer to eat
- reduced activity (spending more time sitting in one place)
- tooth grinding
- head shaking
- scratching ears
- head tilt
- getting aggressive when stroked
All rabbits should have a thorough health check by a vet at least once a year which will help to pick up some of these problems, however if you notice any of the above signs, or anything else that gives you cause for concern, please contact your vet immediately.
There are lots of rabbits in rescue centres, many of which will be lop-eared. They all deserve loving homes but it is important to be aware of the potential problems. If you are buying young rabbits from a breeder or pet shop, please choose ones with erect ears. If people stop buying lops, we can reduce the number of rabbits suffering chronic pain with their ears and teeth.