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Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

Please find below further information about both of the above diseases.

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Myxomatosis is a viral disease that is often fatal, although milder forms sometimes occur. It is spread by biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes, and by contact with another infected rabbit. It damages multiple areas of the body and makes infected rabbits more vulnerable to other infections.

Common symptoms are:

Swelling around the eyes, ears, face and genitals (These are usually the first symptoms to be seen)

Loss of appetite and / or difficulty eating or drinking

Low energy

Respiratory (breathing) problems

Runny nose

Skin lumps, ulcers and scabs

Weepy eyes

If you think your rabbit (s) has myxomatosis or is showing any of the symptoms above they need an urgent appointment with your vet. Unfortunately the vaccine is not 'bulletproof', meaning there is a very small chance of vaccinated rabbits contracting the disease. A rabbit who is up to date with their vaccines and is treated quickly have the best chance of surviving. However, unvaccinated rabbits almost always die from this disease and usually will need to be euthanised to prevent further suffering.

Vaccination against this disease is widely available. In the UK it is currently recommended that the vaccine should be repeated every six months in high-risk areas (where there are lots of mosquitoes and/or wild rabbits, and flat marshy areas) and annually elsewhere.

The vaccine takes 3 weeks to take full affect and so it is recommended you wait this time before introducing them to other rabbits or a different environment. 

Annual vaccinations are best given in spring (but please don't wait if your rabbit is unvaccinated!), when biting insects start to become more common. Ask your vet for a suitable product to treat your rabbits (Xeno is recommended) – and cats and dogs – for fleas, and protect against mosquitoes. Avoid having stagnant water in your garden and use mosquito-proof screens on accommodation.

The myxomatosis virus can live for a long time on surfaces such as hutches, bottles, bowls etc - any of these should be thoroughly cleaned with boiling water (please be careful when doing this) or a disinfectant proven to be affective against myxomatosis or even better thrown away if they have been in contact with a rabbit that has had the virus. This also includes hay, straw, food etc.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD) - is also known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease (RVHD, RHD and VHD). There are two strains of this disease (RHD1 and RHD2) your rabbit should be vaccinated against.

 

RVHD is also usually a killer disease. The virus survives well in the environment and is easily spread between rabbits, by other animals, wild birds or by foods such as hay or vegetables which have been contaminated by infected wild rabbits, or even by the wind and brought in on shoes.

 

RVHD attacks the internal organs, usually the liver, of a rabbit causing internal bleeding.

RVHD1 causes as very sudden illness and is almost always fatal within two days of catching it.

RVHD2 usually develops more slowly and is often fatal within 1-2 weeks. This means that rabbits with this type are more likely to spread the disease purely because they will live longer with the virus.

Symptoms are:

Blood around the nose, mouth or bottom

High temperature

Low appetite or loss of appetite 

Low energy

Sudden death - RHD often develops so quickly that infected rabbits usually die before their owner notices any symptoms.

If you think your rabbit (s) is showing any of the symptoms above they need an urgent appointment with your vet. A rabbit who is up to date with their vaccines has the best chance of surviving this disease. However, unvaccinated rabbits usually will need to be euthanised to prevent further suffering.

All rabbits, even indoor ones, need an annual vaccination, as the virus can be carried in on clothing.

The virus can live for months on surfaces such as hutches, bottles, bowls, hay, straw, food, toys etc - any of these should be thrown away if they have been in contact with a rabbit that has had the virus or at the very least thoroughly disinfected (same procedure as per myxomatosis).

Only fully vaccinated rabbits should be allowed into their area in the future.

Both RHD1 and RHD2 plus the myxomatosis vaccine are usually received as a single dose vaccine.

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