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Rabbits/Leave-in treatment for ear infection...SAFE?


I've had house rabbits for over 10 years. I have been fortunate enough to avoid many diseases and frustrating problems that many bunny people have had.
I noticed that my sweet girl had been shaking her ears (they're stand-up ears, but they're big) and thought she was cooling off. Turns out there is a crusty lining around where she scratched herself. I took her to the vet, but no exotic vet was on-duty on a Saturday morning. The vet I saw was willing to work with me, so I stayed. He cultured the ear gunk, determined that it was infected, and applied an ointment he referred to as "BCP" that he claims stays in and will not require reapplication. I asked him what BCP stands for, and he said it is an antibacterial, antifungal,and steroid mixture that is super-thick so that it stays in place. I looked it up online, but all I found was Otomax, which is for dogs (I think). My question is: is this ointment really safe? What if my bunny ingests it? The vet said in some practices they call it by other names, but it's made up of the same 3 ingredients.
Thank you for advice!

Dear Kristie,

Sorry for the delay in responding.  The AllExperts site has been unreliable of late, and was not sending out messages re:  pending questions!

The vet who saw your rabbit, like many who have little or no experience with species other than dogs or cats, simply treated your rabbit as if she were a dog.  BAD idea.  While Otomax is not going to be terribly dangerous for one treatment, corticosteroids are generally contraindicated for rabbits.  In fact, Otomax isn't the greatest treatment for ear infections in dogs and cats, either.  It's a "go to", quick-and-dirty remedy that doesn't really address the underlying problem.

If the material in your rabbit's ears was crusty, there is a good chance it was caused by ear mites, not bacteria or yeast.  If this is the case, then Otomax will do little but briefly reduce inflammation without harming the parasites.  For this, you will need to see a good rabbit-savvy vet who can prescribe Revolution (selamectin) to kill the mites.  If there is secondary bacterial or yeast infection, then appropriate medication to control those co-pathogens can also be prescribed.  

But that first vet took a look, assumed he knew what it was, and then administered treatment that is pretty much inappropriate for a rabbit.  Most rabbit-savvy vets, faced with ear infection, will prescribe a rabbit-safe antibiotic (e.g., Baytril, ciprofloxacin, NOT any type of oral penicillin!) to be given systemically and attack the pathogens from within.

I hope your bunny is feeling better, but if that ear crust is still there, then please see:

for descriptions of mite-induced problems in rabbits (and scary pictures of what can happen if this is left untreated).

I hope this helps.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

Find a rabbit vet at for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.

RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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