Why myxomatosis isn’t just a wild rabbit problem …

August 21, 2022

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Most pet owners are aware of the need for regular vaccinations for dogs and cats. However, rabbits are also at risk of contracting some very nasty diseases if not protected. The two diseases that affect rabbits are Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD.)

Rabbit vaccinations are the only viable protection for your rabbits against these diseases, which are nearly always fatal. So, it’s vital that every domestic rabbit’s jabs are kept up to date.

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What is Myxomatosis?

Myxomatosis was introduced to the UK in the 1960’s in an attempt to control wild rabbit populations. It is a viral disease that is usually fatal and is present in all parts of the UK. Myxomatosis is is often thought of as a ‘wild rabbit problem’ as the disease can spread rapidly in wild rabbit populations, however, as myxomatosis is spread by blood-sucking insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, mites and ticks, domestic rabbits can be just as vulnerable to infection.

Symptoms usually appear within 10-14 days of infection. Before symptoms appear, the behaviour of a rabbit (including feeding habits) may change. Once symptoms emerge, the eyes, nose and genitals are usually the first parts of the body to be affected. Symptoms of myxomatosis include:

  • Swelling, redness and/or ulcers
  • Nasal and eye discharge
  • Blindness caused by inflammation of the eyes
  • Respiratory problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

How to reduce the chance of your rabbit contracting Myxomatosis

Apart from vaccination, other ways to reduce the chances of infection include:

  • Protecting your pet rabbits from biting insects by putting mosquito netting around the hutch. This will help to prevent flystrike as well.
  • If your rabbits are allowed to exercise outside avoid letting them out in the early morning or late afternoon when mosquitoes are more prevalent.
  • Talk to our team about flea prevention for your rabbit. Our team can talk you through the most effective treatments.

What is RVHD?

RVHD is also a virus that is found all over the UK. There are two strains of RVHD, both of which are usually fatal. The virus causes internal bleeding, usually from the nose or bottom, and the progression is very rapid; most rabbits die within a day or two of infection, sometimes before they have even shown symptoms. The virus is caught from direct contact with affected rabbits, but can also be spread through indirect contact with the virus, for example, from hay that has been in contact with wild rabbits, from bird or insect droppings that may end up on your lawn, or even from your hands, clothes or feet if you have unknowingly come into contact with the virus while out and about and bought it home with you.

How to reduce the chance of your rabbit contracting RVHD

RVHD can survive on surfaces for up to 6 months, especially in colder climates. Given how easy it is to spread the virus, the only practical method of protection is through regular vaccination. Happily there is now a vaccination available for both strains of the virus.

We hope you’re getting the clear message that rabbit vaccinations are vital for the ongoing health of all domestic rabbit populations in Cambridgeshire and beyond. If your rabbit has not been vaccinated or you’re not sure when their last jabs were, then please contact us for immediate advice.

Check your rabbit’s vaccination status

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