Rabbits have very unique ears and while humans ears may serve only the purpose of hearing, rabbits ears do so much more. However, without understanding their many functions, it can be worrying to touch your rabbit and discover that this ears are very cold; but is this normal?
In the main, a rabbit with cold ears is nothing to worry about. Rabbits regulate their temperature through their ears. Rather than sweating, excess heat will be lost through the ears, keeping the rabbit cool.
Rabbits do very well in cold weather but as the heat rises, they are extremely susceptible to things like heat stroke and dehydration. Without the ability to get rid of excess heat through the ears, the rabbit’s life could be at risk.
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Should My Rabbit’s Ears Be Cold?
If you stroke your bunny and notice that his ears are colder than normal, one of the first things you should consider is how warm or cool the surrounding air is. If it is hot, then it is likely that your rabbit is trying to cool down.
Rabbit’s ears are filled with a complex network of blood vessels which the bunny is able to control. When they want to warm up, they will close up these blood vessels which reduces blood flow to the ears where a lot of heat escapes. The opposite is true when the rabbit needs to cool down.
In addition to this, rabbits have very little fur on their ears and this allows heat to escape much more freely than on the heavily fur coated parts of their bodies.
You will notice that, when your rabbit is cold, he will pull his ears back against his body and huddle down. Reducing the surface area of the ears will prevent as much heat from escaping into the air around him.
While you may be worried that you pet is sick due to cold ears, you may similarly be worried when the ears feel very hot. Again, this is most likely due to temperature regulation.
However, there may be times that a change in ear temperature could be related to an illness.
Ear Temperature And Illness In Rabbits
It can be difficult to determine whether a rabbit is sick because these animals hide illness very well. In the wild, rabbits are incredibly vulnerable and any sign that they may be struggling is a dead giveaway to a predator who will know that they will be an even easier target.
For this reason, they have adapted to hiding sickness amazingly well.
However, if you notice that your rabbits ears are cold or warm and are confident that it isn’t related to heat regulation, there is a possibility that it could be a sign that something is wrong.
While it may not be blindingly obvious, there are other cues you can look out for to determine if your rabbit is sick.
Spotting Signs Of Illness
One of the first things that will happen when a rabbit becomes sick is he will lose his appetite. Bunnies are usually very good eaters and will spend the day grazing on hay, rabbit pellets and fresh vegetables.
However, if your rabbit stops eating, you should always take this seriously. If this loss of appetite is accompanied by a drastic change in temperature, you should immediately have your rabbit seen by a vet.
In the event that the ears are cold, this could signal an overall drop in body temperature which could be related to illness. But again, this is typically observed alongside other symptoms. Your rabbit may appear to be much more lethargic than usual or he may be moving around in an unusual manner.
Furthermore, as you get to know your rabbit, you will likely be easily able to pick up on subtle changes in body language that let you know he isn’t feeling too good. Spending at least an hour a day with your bunny will allow you to understand these cues and pick up much more easily on illness.
In some cases, rabbits will develop a digestive system illness that can cause them to become blocked. This may initiate a change in temperature but it can be difficult to pick up on this problem. One of the key giveaways may be the rabbit pushing his abdomen across the floor.
They do this as a way of encouraging a blockage to move but in some cases this is not enough so you should have your pet assessed by a vet.
One of the most common illnesses in rabbits is known as snuffles. While this might sound kind of adorable, it can actually be life threatening and should never be ignored. Snuffles is a respiratory condition and is the rabbit equivalent of the human cold.
You may notice that your rabbit is having difficulty breathing, he may be making a wheezing or grunting sound and this is typically one of the first signs of the condition. What’s more, bunnies with snuffles will usually have mucus around the eyes and nose.
You should check the state of your rabbits eyes and nose regularly so this should be easy to spot. You might also notice that the rabbit has particularly dirty paws where he has been trying to clean the affected areas.
Even if you don’t notice any of the above physical symptoms, it is highly likely that your rabbit may lose a lot of energy and be far less active than normal.
Rabbits are incredible animals that have a lot of body functions which are unique to them. Many people don’t realise that a rabbit’s ears do much more than just hear. One of the reasons that they are so large is so that they have a bigger surface area allowing heat to escape, keeping the rabbit at the right temperature.
While this is the most common reason for a rabbit to have cold ears, you may find that, on occasion, it is linked to illness. Picking up on other signs of sickness is important as rabbits have a very good talent at hiding medical issues.