In addition to panting, rabbits lose body heat using their ears. A rabbit’s ears have large blood vessels that dilate when the rabbit’s body temperature increases. Overheating (hyperthermia) may be due to warm weather, physical activity, or even illness. As air moves across the ears, it cools the blood that passes through the blood vessels, returning to the body slightly cooled.
The size and shape of the ears of rabbits differ greatly depending on the breed. Rabbits are prey animals, thus their sense of hearing is extremely sensitive. Rabbits can suffer from ear infections which must be given medical attention immediately because it can affect the brain, causing neurological damage. Ear infections in rabbits can also adversely impact the upper respiratory tract. Lop-eared rabbits have higher risks of developing ear infections because they have closed ear canals. Rabbits suffering from ear infections may frequently scratch their ears or shake their heads.