Does my rabbit need vaccinations?

Rabbits need vaccinations to protect against myxomatosis, Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD) and a new strain of R(V)HD - R(V)HD2 - all of which are often fatal and cause intense suffering to rabbits.

Vaccinate all your rabbits to stop deadly diseases

There are different vaccines you can get for your rabbits.

Combined vaccines

Combined vaccines offer annual protection against both myxomatosis and R(V)HD. Rabbits can be vaccinated with this from five weeks of age.

A single separate vaccine is required to protect against R(V)HD2. Rabbits can be vaccinated with this from 10 weeks of age.

A vaccine that protects against all three

An annual vaccine is now available which protects against myxomatosis, R(V)HD1 and R(V)HD2 in one dose and can be given from five weeks old. A second separate vaccination for R(V)HD2 is not required.

This new vaccine may not be suitable if your rabbit has previously been vaccinated against myxomatosis but not R(V)HD2. Speak to your vet to find out which vaccination schedule will work best for your rabbit.

Vaccines are essential as there are no treatments

Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments for these diseases, and so vaccinations really are essential. Get veterinary advice about the most suitable vaccination course and best ages to vaccinate.

Prevent and Protect

  • 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' enclosure and any areas they access, using a rabbit-safe disinfectant. Change bedding and litter regularly. 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.

Myxomatosis

  • A virus spread by blood-sucking insects such as fleas, mites or mosquitoes. 
  • Widespread in British wild rabbits. 
  • 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. Eating and drinking becomes increasingly difficult. 
  • Unfortunately, the disease is often fatal with death occurring within 10-14 days. 
  • Occasionally myxomatosis is more prolonged - multiple lumps appear.

How Myxomatosis spreads

  • By blood-sucking insects
  • Contact between infected rabbits 
  • Spread via contaminated objects or the environment for example - via bedding, hutches, grass, feed bowls, carriers, clothing, shoes etc.

Can you treat Myxomatosis?

There is no specific treatment, and unfortunately, recovery is rare. This means that
euthanasia is often the kindest option for infected rabbits.

Regular vaccines are therefore essential. Although the vaccine does not prevent transmission in all cases, vaccinated rabbits experience milder forms of the disease and recovery rates are good with prompt veterinary care.

Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD)

  • Prevalent in Britain's wild rabbits. 
  • Extremely serious causing high fever/internal bleeding/liver disease. 
  • Unfortunately, the disease is almost always fatal. 
  • Pet rabbits are often found dead with blood-stained fluid at their mouth and nose, or there may be no visible signs (cause of death only confirmed by post-mortem).
  • Doesn't affect rabbits under six weeks but causes severe disease in older rabbits.

How R(V)HD spreads

  • Rabbit-rabbit contact
  • Spread via contaminated objects or the environment
  • Insects

Can you treat R(V)HD?

There is no effective treatment, so vaccination is essential.

Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (R(V)HD2)

  • R(V)HD2 was 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 signs seen can be sudden death.
  • Unlike R(V)HD1, rabbits of all ages can be affected.

How R(V)HD2 spreads

  • Rabbit-rabbit contact 
  • Spread via contaminated objects or the environment
  • Insects

Can you treat R(V)HD2?

There is no specific treatment, and although some rabbits can recover from infection it is fatal in many cases. Vaccination is therefore essential.

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