Ear-tags and leg rings
Esther van Praag, Ph.D.
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Warning: this file contains pictures that may be distressing for people
Breeders have the habit of marking their animals with tags or rings. A ring is used and pushed along the hind limb of a rabbit, when it is still young. In some countries, it is also permitted to use tags that are “punched” though the ear of the rabbit. Although these exterior elements indicate that a rabbit responds to the criteria of the breed, it is recommended to remove the ear-tag or the leg-ring if the rabbit is kept as a pet. Indeed, rings and tags can lead to future problems and accidents. Pet rabbits tend to grow heavier than those of breeders; rings ring around the leg can thus become to narrow and start hinders proper blood circulation and damages deeper lying skin structures. In rare cases with, the rabbit needs to be humanely put to sleep due to severe tissue damage and infection.
Ear tags must also be removed from the ear, as they can tear out the ear when the rabbit scratches itself or after it gets caught between the bars of a cage.
The tags and rings are made of hard aluminum and can only be removed with a strong pair of pincers, to avoid hurting the skin. It is recommended to sedate the rabbit lightly and anesthetize the ear locally with a cream containing lidocaine before removal, to avoid attempts to escape and avoid pain.
The best tool is a flat nipper that cuts sideways, as used in electro-engineering or in electronics. To avoid further damage to the ear a thin piece of cardboard (1 mm) is inserted between the ear and the nippers (see illustration).
If the skin is hurt or wounded, it should be disinfected with povidone-iodine, after which an antiseptic cream should be applied. If a bacterial infection is present, it might be necessary to administer systemic antibiotics.
Thanks are due to Michel Gruaz Switzerland), for the permission to use his picture material.