Does my rabbit need vaccinations?

Rabbits need vaccinations to prevent and protect against myxomatosis and Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD) which causes intense suffering to rabbits. Your rabbits can be vaccinated from five weeks old. On an ongoing basis, you can prevent and protect against illness and disease in your rabbits through regular boosters from your vet, as well as through maintaining a clean enclosure and also through preventing your pet rabbits making contact with insects and wild rabbits. Unfortunately, there are not effective treatments for these diseases, and so vaccinations really are essential.

Rabbits need vaccinations to prevent/protect against myxomatosis and Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD) which cause intense suffering to rabbits.


We strongly recommend vaccinating all rabbits
.

  • Combined vaccines offer annual protection against both diseases. Rabbits can be vaccinated from five weeks.
  • 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.

 

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