Rabbits are the cutest pets one can keep. They’re playful and fluffy, all that you would want your pet to be. One of the most prominent features that make rabbits look cuter is their unique ears.
You may not know much about a rabbit’s body if it’s your first time keeping a rabbit as a pet.
For this reason, when you find that your rabbit’s ears are cold, you might get worried (as usually rabbit ears are warm)
If you’re wondering why its ears are cold and what to do about it, you’re at the right place.
Is It Normal for Rabbits to Have Cold Ears?
The first question that will pop into your mind when you notice your rabbit’s cold ears is whether it’s normal for rabbits. Or should you be worried?
Well, contrary to your assumption, cold ears in rabbits are normal.
Unlike humans, the purpose of rabbits’ ears isn’t only hearing. Rabbits also regulate their body temperature through their ears.
Humans release excess body heat through sweating, but rabbits don’t sweat. Instead, they lose the extra body heat through their ears to ensure their body stays cool.
A rabbit’s ears may feel cold or hot, depending on the surrounding temperature. You can tell whether the temperature is suitable for a rabbit just by touching its ears.
The rabbit’s body is covered in thick fur, making it difficult to lose body heat through its skin.
The ears are the part of their body that has got little to no fur, enabling the rabbit to lose body heat quickly and efficiently.
When the surrounding temperature is too hot for the rabbit, the rabbit will lose more heat through its ears to cool its body down. This is when its ears will feel hot to touch.
However, the ears will be cold if the surrounding temperature is too cold for the rabbit. It’s because the rabbit will retain the body heat and won’t lose any heat through its ears, making them colder.
Understanding the Physiology of Rabbit Ears
Since the sole function of rabbit ears isn’t hearing, the structure of the ears is a lot more complex in rabbits.
The ears of rabbits have a network of blood vessels that the rabbit can control. The rabbits can close and open these vessels as they find necessary.
When the surrounding temperature is too cold for the rabbit, the rabbit will close the blood vessels. This allows the blood flow through the vessels to be reduced.
The lesser the blood flow, the lesser the heat loss. In this situation, the rabbit’s ears will be cold.
The opposite will be the case when the temperature is too hot for the rabbit. The rabbit will open up its blood vessels to increase the blood flow and heat loss through the ears. The ears will be hot in this case.
And since the rabbits have minimal fur on their ears, any changes in the temperature will be instantly evident upon touch.
Are Cold Ears Always Normal in Rabbits?
Now, this is an important question that you must pay attention to. We’ve explained that cold ears in rabbits are normal, but are they always normal?
Are there instances when they can be a sign of concern?
The answer to this question is no. The rabbit’s ears can be cold for numerous reasons. It’s not just the surrounding temperature.
The normal temperature for rabbits is between 101 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. You can check the temperature using a digital thermometer or a rectal thermometer.
If the temperature is lower than the normal range, it’s a sign that your rabbit is sick or is too cold. It could also be a sign of heat stroke, dehydration, and chill factor.
So, the next time your rabbit’s ears are cold, check the temperature right away to ensure it is within the normal range. If it’s not, you can take the right measures at the right time by seeking a vet.
Possible Causes Of Cold Ears In Rabbits
If the rabbit’s ears are cold, but there’s no change in their behavior, cold ears shouldn’t be a concern.
However, if cold ears are coupled with other symptoms like lethargy or loss of appetite, that’s when you should be worried. It could mean that your rabbit is sick.
Rabbits are active creatures that love to play around and munch on the go. Rabbits spend a good part of their day grazing on vegetables and rabbit pellets.
However, if the rabbit’s ears are cold and it also seems to have lost its appetite, know that your rabbit isn’t feeling the best. Loss of appetite is usually the first sign of illness in rabbits.
The rabbit may be suffering from GI stasis, snuffles, and pneumonia. These are serious medical conditions requiring an immediate visit to the vet.
This is a dangerous condition. In GI stasis, the muscular contractions in the stomach and intestines are greatly reduced, and there’s an imbalance of naturally-occurring bacteria in the digestive tract.
GI stasis in rabbits can occur for several reasons, including dehydration, stress, pain due to another illness, blockade in the intestine, or insufficient intake of dietary fiber.
While common symptoms of this condition are lethargy and teeth grinding to exhibit pain, a change in the temperature of the ears might be the first sign indicating a problem.
If your rabbit’s ears are cold and it appears lethargic, passing too much gas, rubbing its belly against the floor, or exhibiting any unusual behaviors, rush them to the vet.
Snuffles is one of the most common illnesses that rabbits might suffer from. It’s characterized by a wheezing sound when the rabbit breathes.
If your rabbit’s ears are cold and it’s making a wheezing sound, you should instantly know that the rabbit is facing difficulty breathing. Snuffles is similar to a human cold.
Another sign that confirms snuffles in rabbits is mucous around their nose and eyes. The rabbit won’t be as active as it usually is.
The lack of energy and activity means the body will produce less heat, and as a result, less heat will be released through the ears, making the ears colder.
Snuffles is a respiratory condition that should be immediately brought to a vet’s attention so that the treatment can be started in time.
Another reason why your rabbit’s ears might be cold is the temperature of the surroundings. Usually, rabbits retain their body heat when it’s cold.
The lesser heat released through the ears makes the ears feel colder.
Although rabbits have a pretty good tolerance to cold temperatures due to a thick fur coating, they can feel cold if the temperature of their surroundings falls too low.
Some signs that indicate that the temperature is too cold for the rabbit include:
- Cold ears
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Nasal discharge
In this case, you’ve got to make sure you’re keeping your rabbit warm and comfortable. You should restrict your rabbit indoors when the weather is cold outdoors.
You can add straws or extra bedding to their cage to ensure they’re warmly tucked in. Don’t leave the doors and windows open that could allow cold air to make your rabbit feel colder than it already feels.
The rabbit’s ears may be cold after spaying as well. Spaying is a process in which a female rabbit is sterilized by removing the ovaries.
The rabbit is given anesthesia to make the procedure less painful for it. Anesthesia often causes the body temperature to drop.
The vet has to monitor the rabbit’s temperature during and after the procedure is complete to ensure the temperature doesn’t fall too low. Rabbits are kept in heated rooms to keep them warm.
So, if you’ve got your rabbit recently spayed, its ears may be colder than usual, and that’s normal. Keep your rabbit warm and comfortable, and soon, the temperature of its ears will return to normal.
How to Check Your Rabbit’s Temperature?
Sometimes, rabbit owners rush to the vet if their rabbit’s ears are cold, only to find out that there’s nothing wrong.
The first thing that you should do if you feel the rabbit’s ears are colder than usual is to check its temperature. You can do it using a rectal thermometer.
Keep in mind that rabbits are very sensitive animals, and they get stressed really quickly. Stress isn’t good for rabbits.
This means that if you don’t handle the rabbit well while you check their temperature, you may trigger stress, and too much stress can be fatal for rabbits.
So, here’s how you should check your rabbit’s temperature using a rectal thermometer:
- Cradle your rabbit gently on your lap or on a pillow on its back. You’ve got to ensure it’s comfortable; otherwise, it’ll get stressed.
- Hold the rabbit’s head firmly but gently so that its back is curved like a C and its footpads face the ceiling. This will ensure that the path of the rectum is parallel to the rabbit’s lower spine.
- Secure the rabbit’s legs so that it doesn’t kick when you insert the thermometer in its rectum and end up hurting itself.
- Once your rabbit is calm in the position, insert the thermometer with a rubber tip into the rectum. Make sure the thermometer is well lubricated. Don’t go deeper than an inch.
Take your rabbit to the vet if the thermometer shows a temperature that’s well below the normal range. It’s a clear indication that something’s not right with your rabbit.
Rabbits lose body heat through their ears, and any changes in the surrounding temperature can result in their ears getting hot or cold.
Cold ears in rabbits are normal if there are no other symptoms. In case the rabbit shows any symptoms or unusual behavior patterns with cold ears, you must take your rabbit to the vet immediately.
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