We recommend that your rabbit is routinely vaccinated against two fatal diseases - Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (HVD) and Myxomatosis. Both can be rapidly fatal in an unvaccinated rabbit and there no cures once infected. Both viruses can be spread by direct contact between rabbits (wild and domesticated) but also via indirect contact such as people, clothing, shoes, other objects and fleas.
Protection can be achieved by regular vaccination. We are now able to provide vaccination against Viral Haemorrhagic Disease and Myxomatosis in one single yearly vaccination.
Myxomatosis is caused by a pox virus which is spread by biting insects, typically the rabbit flea, although the cat flea can also transmit the virus. The disease has been seen in house rabbits that have never been outdoors so all pet rabbits should be considered to be at risk. Myxomatosis can occur at any time of year but in this country most cases occur in late summer/early autumn and early winter months.
Symptoms of myxomatosis include puffy swellings around the head and face, ‘sleepy’ eyes, swollen lips, swellings on the inside of the ear and puffy swellings around the anus and genitals. Within a day or so these swellings can become so severe that they can cause blindness. Eating and drinking becomes progressively more difficult and death usually follows within 12 days.
Vaccination can start at 6 weeks of age. Animals should normally be re-vaccinated annually. However where there is a high risk of infection (e.g. rabbit sanctuaries, heavy flea populations, areas where myxomatosis is rife) re-vaccination every 6 months is suggested.
Haemorrhagic viral disease (HVD)
This is another very nasty, often fatal disease. Affected rabbits become severely ill with internal bleeding in lungs, guts and urinary tract. It is caused by a virus (calici virus) and is very infectious. It affects rabbits above 8 weeks old usually and 70-80% of affected rabbits will become extremely ill within 2-3 days of being exposed to the virus. Signs seen are fever, depression, anorexia, lethargy, diarrhoea, however these vague signs might not be noticed as the disease can progress very quickly. Nearly all affected rabbits will die suddenly with few clinical signs. In the terminal stages they can have nose bleeds, have fits, or become comatose and die. HVD is spread in the same way as myxomatosis i.e. between rabbits and on objects e.g. food and water containers, people etc. Treatment is unlikely to be successful because the disease progresses so rapidly. Some animals may recover but require intensive supportive treatment.
The only way to protect your rabbit against this fatal disease is to have it vaccinated. One of our vets will give your rabbit a full health check at the same time as having the vaccination - please ring for an appointment.