Does my rabbit need vaccinations?

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

We strongly recommend vaccinating all rabbits.

  • Combined vaccines offer annual protection against both myxomatosis and R(V)HD. Rabbits can be vaccinated from five weeks.
  • A single separate vaccine is required to protect against R(V)HD2. Rabbits can be vaccinated from 10 weeks of age. 

Unfortunately, there are not 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 life, see your vet.
     
  • Controlling insects may reduce infection risk. Deter flies/mosquitoes e.g. insect-proof screens. Ensure your home and all pets are treated for fleas as advised by your vet. Fleas from cats infect rabbits.
     
  • Regularly clean/disinfect rabbits' enclosure/areas rabbit's access, using rabbit-safe disinfectant. Change bedding/litter regularly. Never use housing/bedding from rabbits infected/suspected to have/have had RHD/myxomatosis.
     
  • Prevent contact with wild/affected domestic rabbits or access to areas where they've been.


Myxomatosis

What is it?

  • Virus spread by fleas/mites/biting flies e.g. mosquitoes. 
  • Widespread in British wild rabbits. 
  • Early symptoms - puffy swellings around face/ears/eyes which can cause blindness, spreading around the anus/genitals. 
  • High fever. Eating/drinking becomes increasingly difficult. 
  • Death within 10-14 days. 
  • Occasionally myxomatosis is more prolonged - multiple lumps appear.


How is it spread?

  • Insects
  • Contact between infected rabbits 
  • Persists in the environment (e.g. hutches).


Treatment and prognosis

  • No specific treatment, recovery is rare. 
  • Euthanasia is often the best option. 
  • Vaccinated rabbits can catch milder forms, often recovering with intensive veterinary care.


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

What is it?

  • Prevalent in Britain's wild rabbits. 
  • Extremely serious causing high fever/internal bleeding/liver disease. 
  • Almost always fatal. 
  • Pet rabbits are often found dead with blood-stained fluid at mouth/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 is it spread?

  • Rabbit-rabbit contact
  • Persists in the environment (e.g. carriers/clothing/shoes).


Treatment and prognosis

  • There is no effective treatment. Vaccination is essential.

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

What is it?

  • R(V)HD2 was detected in France in 2010 and 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.

How is it spread?

  • Rabbit-rabbit contact 
  • Via the environment (e.g. housing, bowls, grass) 

Treatment and prognosis

  • There is no specific treatment. 
  • Some rabbits can become infected, it affects the liver, and then recover.
  • Vaccination is essential.
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