Vaccinations for Rabbits

There are several highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your rabbit. Fortunately, vaccines have been produced that will protect your rabbit against two of these – myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease. To ensure that your rabbit is fully protected it is essential that it receives regular booster injections.

Is your Rabbit protected against Myxomatosis?

Myxomatosis is a fatal viral disease, which will affect all rabbits, not just wild strains.

99% of infected rabbits will die of the disease and yet less than 10% of pet rabbits are protected with vaccination.

The disease is spread by blood sucking insects such as rabbit fleas and mosquitoes. The small amount of live virus placed into the skin when bitten gets into the rabbit’s blood stream and travels around the body.

It settles in the skin of the head and genitalia, where it multiplies. Early symptoms of the disease are shown between five and 14 days following infection; these include puffy swellings to the face, lips, eyelids, ears, genitals and anus. These swelling rapidly progress over a matter of days to cause blindness and the affected patient will stop eating and drinking, thick crusting discharges of the eyes and nose are noticed and a fatal secondary pneumonia will result.

Sadly 99% of affected rabbits die, and this is usually within 12 days of the onset of symptoms. A small number of patients do manage to survive the disease with intensive nursing care over months, but will be left with scars and scabs on the face and body.

Protection against myxomatosis is provided by vaccination and insect control

Vaccination is the best chance of protection against myxomatosis. A single injection is given to rabbits over six weeks of age. It then takes 14 days for immunity to be reached, and this protection lasts for six months. Annual booster vaccinations are required in May or June to provide protection during the warmer summer months when the risk is highest. In areas where the disease is rife and the risk is very high vaccination can be given every six months.

Complete insect control is difficult to achieve but the environmental flea burden can be reduced by keeping wild rabbits away and by applying the spot on product ‘Advantage’ to your rabbit. Mosquito presence can be reduced with nets and insect repellent strips. Dry bedding will also discourage them.

Viral Haemorrhagic disease (HVD)

HVD is a very serious condition, which causes internal bleeding, and causes the internal organs to shut down. Signs include depression, collapse, difficulty breathing, a high temperature, lethargy and bleeding from the nose.

Unfortunately this disease kills – there is no cure. Vaccination can begin at 10 weeks.

Sometimes called rabbit calcivirus disease (RCD) or rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD), this is a highly infectious and often fatal condition that largely affects wild rabbits, but can also be spread to domestic rabbits.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is the infectious virus responsible, which attacks the rabbit’s internal organs causing them to haemorrhage. This is a very life threatening condition that can take hold very quickly, so it’s important to be aware of this disease if you are the owner of a pet rabbit.

Outbreaks of the virus can spread for hundreds of miles and can affect wild and domestic rabbits in the UK and Europe.

The virus is extremely stable and can remain active for many days, even in extreme conditions. This means that it can easily be transmitted between rabbits by direct contact, or via the droppings of an infected rabbit.

Other animals and insects can transmit the virus too. For example, flies, birds, rodents and humans via their clothing or shoes.

The disease presents no risk to humans.

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