Does my rabbit need vaccinations?
Rabbits need vaccinations to protect against:
- Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD)
- A strain of R(V)HD - R(V)HD2
All of which are often fatal and cause intense suffering to rabbits. Let's look at each of them in turn.
Myxomatosis is widespread in British wild rabbits. It's a virus spread by blood-sucking insects (fleas, mites, mosquitoes). It can also be spread from rabbit to rabbit contact and via environmental contamination. Contaminated objects can include:
- Feed bowls
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear. Early symptoms include puffy swellings around the face, ears and or eyes, which can cause blindness. The swellings can also affect the anus and or genitals. This often progresses to a high fever, and eating and drinking become more difficult. At times, myxomatosis is more prolonged and multiple lumps appear.
The disease is often fatal, killing the rabbit within 10-14 days. There's no specific treatment, and sadly, recovery is rare. Putting the rabbit to sleep is usually the kindest option when infected.
Regular vaccines are essential. While the vaccine doesn't always prevent transmission, vaccinated rabbits experience a milder disease. Rabbits also have good recovery rates if you get them to the vet quickly.
Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD)
Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease is widespread in Britain's wild rabbits. It's a serious disease, causing high fever, internal bleeding and liver disease. The disease doesn't affect rabbits under six weeks but causes severe disease in older rabbits.
Like myxomatosis, (R(V)HD) spreads via direct contact, contaminated objects or environments, and insects. The disease is almost always fatal.
Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (R(V)HD2)
R(V)HD2 was first detected in France in 2010 and has been in the UK since 2013, with confirmed cases seen across the country. R(V)HD2 has a lower mortality rate than R(V)HD, but often the only sign seen is sudden death.
It spreads in the same way as R(V)HD1, but rabbits of all ages can be infected. There's no specific treatment, and although some rabbits can recover from infection, it's fatal in many cases. Vaccination is essential.
Vaccinate all your rabbits to stop deadly diseases
As there are no effective treatments, vaccinations are essential. There are different vaccines you can get for your rabbits, including:
- Combined vaccines offer annual protection against both myxomatosis and R(V)HD. Rabbits can be vaccinated from five weeks old. You'll also need a single, separate vaccine to protect against R(V)HD2 at 10 weeks old.
- An annual vaccine that protects against all three diseases in one dose can be given from five weeks old. This may not be suitable if your rabbit is already vaccinated against myxomatosis but not R(V)HD2.
Always get vet advice about the right vaccination course for you and the best time to vaccinate.
Preventing diseases in rabbits
Keep your rabbit healthy and happy by remembering the following tips:
- Give regular boosters throughout your rabbit's life; see your vet to arrange this.
- Controlling insects may reduce infection risk. Deter flies and mosquitoes, for example by using insect-proof screens. Ensure your home and all pets are treated for fleas as advised by your vet. Fleas from cats and dogs can infect rabbits.
- Regularly clean and disinfect your rabbits' enclosures and play areas. Remember to use a rabbit-safe disinfectant. Change bedding and litter often. Never use housing or bedding from any rabbits who could have had these infections.
- Prevent contact with affected domestic rabbits and all wild rabbits. Don't allow your rabbits to go into any areas where they've been.