It is crucial that your pet rabbits are vaccinated to protect them from catching Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD), which both cause extreme suffering and in nearly all cases lead to death.
When to vaccinate
Rabbits can be vaccinated from 5 weeks of age and will require yearly boosters to maintain the protection. Combined vaccinations will offer protection against both diseases.
What is Myxomatosis and how is it spread?
Myxomatosis is a viral infection caused by a member of the pox virus family. It was first observed in laboratory rabbits in the late 19th century before being introduced to Australia in the 1950’s in an attempt to control the wild rabbit population, and eventually spread to the UK. The infection is spread through insects such as mosquitos or direct contact with an infected animal or the area in which they have been. Death usually occurs within 10-14 days.
Symptoms of Myxomatosis
Puffyness and/or swellings around the head, eyes, ears and genitals
- Lethargy and listlessness
- Ocular discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of sight
What is RHD and how is it spread?
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease is a highly contagious and often fatal disease caused by the calicivirus leading to internal bleeding and in most cases death. It is spread through direct contact with an infected rabbit or persists in the environment such as clothes, shoes, hutches etc.
Symptoms of RHD
RHD can be sudden and in some cases present no symptoms prior to death but there are things to look out for;
- High fever
- Swollen eyelids
- Occular haemorrhages
- Loss of skin
- A bloody discharge may appear from the nose, mouth or cage floor but this is often seen after death.
Treatment for Myxomatosis and RHD
There is currently no successful treatment for either disease and often the kindest option is euthanasia. In this case prevention really is better than cure! Vaccinated rabbits may catch milder forms of Myxomatosis but they usually recover with treatment.
How to prevent Myxomatosis and RHD
The best way to ensure you pet is protected is to get them vaccinated annually for the diseases but there are other ways to ensure your pet is safe;
- Controlling insects in the hutch and bedding by spraying the area with rabbit safe repellents or using an insect proof screen or net.
- Ensure your rabbit and other pets are treated for fleas, cat fleas also affect rabbits.
- Regularly change the bedding disinfect the rabbit hutch with rabbit safe disinfectant.
- Prevent contact with wild rabbits or areas where they have been.