Just like cats and dogs, rabbits need preventative healthcare to keep them fit and well. Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) also known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) are two serious (but preventable) infectious diseases of rabbits that can be rapidly fatal in an unvaccinated rabbit as there are no cures once infected.
Myxomatosis is a virus spread most commonly by blood-sucking insects, such as the rabbit flea and mosquitoes. Myxomatosis can also be spread directly between rabbits in close contact. Rabbits can incubate the Myxomatosis virus for between 5 to 14 days before showing any signs of disease. Common symptoms of Myxomatosis include:
- Puffy, fluid filled swellings around the head and face
- Sleepy eyes
- Swollen lips
- Tiny swellings on the inside of the ear
- Puffy swellings around the anus and genitals
Rabbits who become infected with Myxomatosis have a poor prognosis and most rabbits will die within 12 days. Death is oten caused by the associated side effects of the virus e.g. Secondary respiratory infection, dehydration and annorexia as drinking and eating become progressively more difficult due to swelling.
Rabbit Haemorragic Disease (RHD)
RHD is also a virus and it is shed in the urine, droppings and respiratory secretions of infected animals and is then spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) but also via indirect contact such as from contaminated clothing, hutches, water and feed containers as well as people, fleas and other parasites.
Most rabbits affected by RHD will die rapidly without showing any obvious clinical signs apart from a short period of dullness and lethargy lasting a few hours. In rabbits which survive longer the clinical symptoms can be varied but may include fever and convulsions, progressing rapidly to a terminal coma.
How can you protect your pet?
There are 2 factors that help in controlling both Myxomatosis and RHD. The first is reduction of risk through control of insect parasites and avoiding sources of infection and the second is by vaccination.
Myxomatosis is commonly spread via blood-sucking insects and in this respect flea control is especially vital.
Keep wild rabbits away from pets and use flea control methods such as spot-ons available from your vets.
Mosquito and fly control is more difficult however insect repellent strips and nets can be used and making sure dirty bedding is removed frequently will help keep flies away. For more information on fly and insect repellant methods click here.
At the Oundle and Thrapston Veterinary Surgery we recommend that you should vaccinate your pet rabbit yearly against both Myxomatosis and RHD in one single vaccine. The combined Myxomatosis-RHD vaccination that we use can be given from as early as 5 weeks of age with boosters only being required annuallly. At each vaccination with one of our qulaified vets your rabbit will get a thorough health check to book your appointment today call Oundle 01832 273521 or Thrapston 01832 732632