Lateral ear resection in (lop) rabbits


Esther van Praag, Ph.D.


Warning: this file contains pictures that may be distressing for people.


Rabbits can suffer from chronic ear infection. Lop-rabbits are particularly predisposed to chronic ear infection, due to the conformation of the ear canal and the lop ear that prevents a good aeration. This leads to chronic ear infection.




English (left) and Frech (right) lop-eared rabbits

Various initial treatments are often attempted, but their failure leads to the accumulation of pus, and the occlusion of the in the ear canal. This prevents topical ear medication to come in contact with the infectious organisms and kill them. The result is that the infection cannot be properly treated and becomes worse, or:

·         it is treated, but relapse occurs after a few months;

·         it has led to structural changes in the ear, like ulceration or the growth of a tumor or a polyp.

Lateral ear resection surgery can be attempted when no structural modifications are observed in the horizontal ear canal. The aim of this procedure is to shorten the length of the ear canal, in order to facilitate aeration, drainage, and to enable the medication to reach the infectious site. The modification of temperature and the decrease of internal humidity can, furthermore, lead to a decrease of the bacterial infection.

Surgical procedure and post-surgical care

The surgical procedure will reconstruct the entry of the ear canal by removing a small portion of skin, cartilage, and of the ear canal. A new “opening” is reconstructed in order to expose the ear canal.

Inner ear infection is accompanied by ataxia (circling, rolling stumbling), leaning to one side and head-tilt, continuous horizontal or rotary nystagmus (involuntary rhythmic eye movement).


Kim Chilson

Lateral ear resection surgery, performed by B. Langhofer, DVM, in his clinic in 2004

Kim Chilson


Aspect of the ear, 16 hours post-surgery

The administration of antibiotics and analgesics is necessary after the surgical procedure. The later will reduce pain, known to slow down the activity of the digestive tract, delay food intake and recovery in rabbits.

The site of surgery may get bloody crusts and be covered with ear discharge. It is recommended not to take them away, till the sutures are removed.

It usually takes another few months before the ear infection is completely cleared.


All my gratitude to Kim Chilson (USA) and to Dr B. Langhofer (The Scottsdale Veterinary Clinic Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ, USA) for sharing this innovative surgical procedure of ear resection in rabbits, and for the permission to use the pictures.