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5 Reasons for Rabbit Shaking Head


5 Reasons for Rabbit Shaking Head

Your bunny cannot just shake its head without any apparent reason. This tells you that rabbit head shaking means more than what you see. You shouldn’t get worried for some reasons might be normal and harmless.

All the same, you shouldn’t just keep quiet and assume everything is normal. In some cases, the reasons behind the head shaking might be serious. In such a case, you may need to see a vet on the same.

How do you then tell when rabbit shaking head is normal and when it is serious? This article answers this question. It critically examines factors that trigger bunnies to shake their heads.

Commonly, head shaking among bunnies is attributed to the following factors:

Vestibular disease

It is also known as head tilt disease. It is a disease that interferes with the normal functioning of the vestibular system. The vestibular system involves the brain stem, middle and inner ear. The animal’s balance is maintained by the vestibular system.

An infection of the inner or middle ear by bacteria results to vestibular disease. The most common bacteria that causes this infection is known as Encephalitozoon cuniculi. Trauma in the middle or inner ear can also cause this disease.

Predisposition depends on a few factors. For example, breed type determines susceptibility. Dwarf rabbit breeds are more susceptible to vestibular disease than other breeds. Furthermore, older bunnies are more susceptible than the younger ones. Finally, those with a compromised immune system will always fall victims of the vestibular disease.

If head shaking in your bunny is as a result of vestibular disease, be keen to note some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Head shaking- the head is usually tilted to one side
  • Drunken movement
  • Rolling
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of appetite

In case of any or a few of the above symptoms, then call a vet to fully check your bunny’s health. If it is diagnosed with the vestibular disease, the vet will prescribe the necessary medication. Moreover, you may be required to give your rabbit special diet.

It could be suffering from abscesses

This sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? Bacterial infection among rabbits may result in

Rabbit head shaking

Rabbit head shaking

abscesses. This is a cavity or swollen area inside the rabbit’s tissues that is filled with pus.

Abscesses in rabbits are attributed to many types of aerobic bacteria. According to, abscesses in bunnies are caused by the following bacteria:

  • Pasteurella multocida
  • Streptococcus
  • Pseudomonas
  • Staphylococcus

In most cases, rabbits get abscesses on the skin and tooth roots. When abscesses occur in the tooth root, you will note a rabbit shaking its head. The vet should examine it to ascertain the location as well as the cause.

Treatment of abscesses is quite tricky. The vet may recommend some antibiotics to heal the infections. In other instances, a surgery might be necessary. All these treatment options will depend on the severity of abscesses.

Research has identified that rabbit abscesses are hard to completely treat. In most cases, the condition will always recur.

Ear infections in rabbits

If your rabbit is shaking its head, first check if the ears are okay. A severe or mild infection in the inner, middle or outer ear may always make it very uncomfortable. Due to this discomfort, the rabbit repeatedly shakes its head.

Ear infections in rabbits are very common. These infections are known as otitis interna and otitis media. They are attributed to bacterial infections. The infection starts in the outer ear before spreading to the inner parts.

Ear infections in bunnies come along with the following symptoms:

  • Repeatedly shaking head
  • Dizziness
  • Discharge from ears
  • Pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Teeth grinding

If you explain these symptoms to your vet, then he might conclude that it is an ear infection. These infections in bunnies are usually caused by the following:

  • Mites
  • Fungal infection such as candida
  • Stress, thus impaired immunity
  • Ear cleaning solutions

If you provide a thorough history of your bunny, the vet might be able to identify the cause of the infection. He will recommend the right drugs to treat the cause, thus stop rabbit head shaking.

Ear mites

This is one of the main causes of bunny shaking its head. Ear mites among rabbits are becoming very common nowadays. They are caused by psoroptes cuniculiis. The mites can be found in either ears or even one.

Apart from the ears, mites can spread to the surrounding body parts such as genitals, head, abdomen, and neck. notes that one can identify infested ears by noting lesions. These are thick lesions accompanied by significant hair loss in the ears.

Mites can be passed from one rabbit to the other. Therefore, an infested one should be isolated from the rest. Your bunny can also get mites from grass, beddings and wood chip. Always spray areas where bunny plays or stays.

In case you note head shaking in your rabbit, first examine for the presence of mites. Mite infestation always comes along with the following symptoms:

  • Mild itching in the infested area, thus constant scratching
  • Head shaking in an attempt to relieve the itching
  • Pain
  • Hair loss in the infested ears
  • Brown crusty lesion

Ensure your vet check carefully for mites since it the condition could be due to other ear infections. Mites can be physically seen. The vet should use specialized tools if the mites are not visually visible.

Earwax accumulation

Wax build up in rabbits can cause immense discomfort, thus head shaking. Wax production in is normal. Normal wax is yellow and soft in touch. If you don’t regularly clean up your rabbit’s ears, there might be wax build up.

If left to accumulate, wax can cause serious problems. In some cases, the wax may harbor mites. It might also cause infections in the middle and inner ear. Therefore, rabbit ear care is vital. You can use the following to clean your bunny’s ears:

  • Long-stemmed cotton swap
  • Earwax remover

While cleaning them, please observe the following precautions:

  • Make sure that the cleaning is done gently. Don’t force the cotton swabs into the ear
  • Be cautious not to push any wax deeper near to the eardrum
  • Remember that the eardrum is very fragile
  • Don’t scratch or pinch on the numerous blood vessels found in the ears
  • Don’t use any water or any other fluid directly into the ear

Vets recommend that bunnies ears be cleaned on a weekly basis. This regular cleaning significantly reduces chances of wax build up, thus preventing mites and infections.

Article Citations and References

  1. Rabbit shaking her head and scratching her ears
  2. 14 Reasons Your Bunny Might Be Sick
  3. Body language of rabbits
  4. Rabbit Head Shaking
  5. Head Tilt in Rabbits


All the information and other materials contained on this website are for informational purposes only and not intended to substitute consultation, advice, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed professional or veterinarian. disclaimer

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