Rabbit Shaking Head, Tilting It and Scratching Ears

Sometimes you may notice your rabbit shaking its head which may be accompanied with sneezing, ear scratching and moving it up and down. What causes it and how do you stop this problem?

Rabbit shaking and bobbling head

Rabbit shaking and bobbing head


Bunny or rabbit head shaking is a common and possible occurrence. The reasons behind this behavior can be maybe normal or ill-health related. Do not ignore it. Pethelpful.com notes that “once you suspect something being wrong with your little pet, take immediate action. Waiting can be dangerous as it might turn out to be something dire.”

Both domestic and wild rabbits can have a head-shaking problem or behavior. Furthermore, researchers have revealed that some breed of bunnies is more exposed to inherited disorders and diseases that may result in this problem.

Treatments and remedies to stop this habit will depend on the underlying causes. Some untrained eyes might not be able to note some of the uncommon reasons. Therefore, always ensure you get a professional diagnosis from a vet when you are uncertain.

Let us begin by looking at the possible reasons why your furry friend may be shaking its head.

Leading causes of bunny head shaking

Here are some of the common reasons why your furry friend has this condition.

1. Vestibular disease

Vestibule disease is mostly linked to a rabbit head tilt rather than shaking. This can be involving the brain (central) or not affecting the brain (peripheral). According to justrabbits.com, “signs of true vestibular disease in a rabbit are a persistent head tilt and a loss of balance.”

Diseases of the inner ear commonly result in this shaking of the head. The inner ear is supplied with a vestibulocochlear nerve that originates from the brain. This makes it be able to control hearings and balance.

Therefore, a disease in this area would manifest through symptoms such as rabbit head tilt, loss balance, head shaking and scratching ears and flipping or rolling.

The conditions or symptoms are linked to the brain stem and nerve damage.

2. Outer ear disease

Disease on the external part (or pinna) can also result in this problem. Furthermore, conditions in this area can advance to middle and inner ear leading to similar symptoms as those of vestibular diseases discussed above. However, diseases of the external ear don’t lead to constant rabbit head tilt.

3. Middle ear disease

The middle ear is made up of auditory ossicles, eustachian tube, and the tympanic nerve. The middle ear can also be infected. Any illness in the middle ear can also make the head-shaking alongside other symptoms.

4. General ear infection

Unfortunately, any of the three parts of the ear can be infected. These rabbit ear infections can also be related to infectious diseases, trauma, foreign, cancer and toxins. The infection may occur if any part of three ears is damaged, and there is an opening for the germs to enter.

Such infections will make the rabbit tilt or shake its head to relieve pain, itchiness or inflammation.

5. Acne on-ear

Acne can be the reason for an abscess that occurs on the ears. Acne occurs when the excess sebum and dead skin cells build-up and clog the skin pores. When the clog is infected, various types of acne including the abscess will emerge. This would result in inflammation, itching or pain something that causes this behavior in a bid to relieve these symptoms.

6. Ear mites

This issue may also be due to parasites called mites (Psoroptes cuniculi). They cause what is known as rabbit ear canker. Symptoms of these mites include brown discharge from the ear or ear crustiness.

Luckily, these mites and sores have many treatment options. They can be treated using some simple home remedies, OTC products, and prescription treatments.

7. Wax build-up

Built-up wax can also be the other reason. In the first place, the build-up of wax in the rabbit`s ears would provide a conducive breeding ground for mites. This wax build-up can be a symptom of or can also contribute towards ear disease.

There are various ways in which a heap on wax can be removed. You can use a syringe with warm water or lift the wax out using a cotton swab.

8. Other causes

Other health conditions can also lead to rashes all over the body including the ear and thus would trigger the head shaking. It should also be understood that a bunny can even shake head due to itching, pain or inflammation in other parts of the body.

Apart from the above causes, other conditions or factors that can conditions that trigger this behavior include:

Rabbit shaking head and scratching ears

This will in most cases would signify an ear condition. This could be due to infections. Also, the infestation by ear mites can also cause the shaking of the head and ear scratching.

In rare cases, it could just be a normal process of grooming. After the rabbit has scratched its ear, the bunny would then shake the head to get rid of the detached furs.

Since the shanking and scratching mostly signalizes ear skin conditions, do a thorough examination of the ear and see whether you can establish the causes it.

If the underlying condition is not immediately apparent to you, seek advice from a qualified vet.

Shaking up and down or bobbing

Sometimes, the shaking can be down up and down (bouncing). This is quite a normal condition especially when it is done once. However, constant bobbing must be a source of concern.

Excessive head bobbing could be caused by the same conditions we have looked at that will make a bunny to shake its head. Finally, there can be head shaking from side to side which could mean something serious if done for a long time.

The proper examination should be done for all types of bunny head shaking. While in rare cases, they can be normal, mostly, they signify some problem which could be mild or severe.

Head shaking and sneezing

Rabbit shaking head and sneezing is another common observation you may make. What does it signify? An allergic reaction or what?  Well, this could be due to allergy.  However, such a condition can also reveal that the bunny has a respiratory infection. This can be caused be by bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Also, it can also be a symptom of snuffles or what is known as Pasteurella. This is a highly infectious condition. Apart from a bunny shaking its head and sneezing, other symptoms include nasal discharge and pneumonia in severe cases.

As Petcoach.co notes, “for a definitive diagnosis and treatment, you will need to take your rabbit to an exotic species veterinarian experienced with rabbits for a physical exam and nasal swab to culture for the Pasteurella bacterium.”

Home remedies

The remedy or treatment options will highly depend on knowing the underlying cause as well as severity. Remember, some can be mild while others could be severe.

Therefore, a proper diagnosis should be made by a qualified vet to establish the disease or the condition that is a bunny to shake its head. This is because the shaking alone is not a disease, but just a symptom of any underlying disease or condition.

The first option of treating this habit or condition preventing possible triggers. This would include the following:

  • Groom the rabbit on a regular basis. This would limit the risk of various infections and infestations.
  • Feed your bunny with the right diet to help boost its immunity.
  • Make sure that your furry friends live a stress-free life. Remember stress can result in various health conditions that would lead to shaking head.
  • Make sure that your domestic bunny is not encountering wild rabbits
  • Always examine your rabbit to try to find changes in its routine that could signify illness or injuries

Medication and treatments

If you notice that your bunny is shaking its head, but you are not sure what the cause it, talk to your vet for an in-depth examination.

The vet would prescribe a treatment depending on the underlying causes and the severity of the symptoms. Common treatments include the following:

  • In cases of ear infections, natural antibiotics can be applied. These could consist of include Honey, aloe vera, cabbage, pineapple, garlic, lemon juice, and carrots among others.
  • Ear infections are usually treated with oral or topical antibiotics if bacterial
  • Corticosteroids can also be administered but for only a few days to help reduce any inflammation.
  • Antihistamines can be given for allergies that lead to the head shaking and sneezing

There are more treatment options that a vet may prescribe to treat the various conditions that are linked to this shaking of the head. It all depends on the symptoms that will accompany this habit.

Lastly, to make sure that your rabbit is generally healthy, you must keep an eye on it. Make sure to feed it the recommended diet. You should also make regular grooming, keep its hutches and or cages clean and take it to the vet for regular check-ups.

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