Floppy-Eared Rabbits Are Likely To Be In Pain And Possibly Even Deaf

Not a happy bunny. Grigorita Ko/Shutterstock

Given how cute and cuddly they are, it’s difficult to think of lop-eared bunny rabbits as an abomination, although the truth is that nature never intended for them to exist, and with good reason. Like pugs and bulldogs, floppy-eared rabbits were created by humans and pay a high price for their adorable looks, suffering from chronic health problems and high levels of discomfort.

A new study in the journal Vet Record compares the aural and dental health of 15 lop-eared rabbits and 15 erect-eared rabbits in a rescue center, with the former being 15 times more likely to show signs of being in pain when being examined.

Venturing further down the rabbit hole, the researchers discovered that this discomfort was largely caused by the warped skull shape of lop-eared rabbits, which results in them suffering from a narrowing of the ear canal, known as stenosis. This, in turn, causes a build-up of ear wax, leading to a condition called otitis externa, characterized by inflammation of the ear canal.

All but one of the lops was found to suffer from excessive ear wax accumulation, with nine of them requiring regular wax removal, while none of the erect-eared rabbits had this problem.

According to staff at the rescue center, some of the lop-eared rabbits even appeared to be deaf, or at least hard of hearing.

The alteration in skull shape that allows for floppy ears also affects the rabbits’ teeth, to the point where they are 12 times more likely than straight-eared rabbits to have oversized molars, and 23 times more likely to suffer from diseased incisors.

Given that lops make up more than half of all pet rabbits in the UK, study author Charlotte Burn said that “people now need to weigh up whether those cute floppy ears are worth the risk of pain, deafness, and difficulty eating for the rabbit, not to mention the extra vet bills.”

For the sake of the rabbits, let’s hope that the public is all ears and sticks to more natural pet breeds.

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