You should always vaccinate your rabbit against Myxomatosis

 In Pet Health

Myxomatosis is a particularly unpleasant killer disease of rabbits. We are seeing it more frequently in both pet and wild rabbits. Myxomatosis is caused by a virus originally introduced into the wild rabbit population to control numbers. It is equally as dangerous to domesticated rabbits as to wild rabbits and house rabbits, are not completely safe.

How it is spread:

The virus is spread by:

  • biting insects e.g. fleas, mites, lice, and flies
  • direct contact between rabbits
  • indirect contact via items that such as food dishes or clothes that carry the virus from rabbit to rabbit, and by aerosols.

Signs:

Myxomatosis can take several courses.

  • Rabbits may suddenly become very ill with conjunctivitis (red, runny eyes)
  • A high fever, loss of appetite and lethargy, and may die within 48 hours.
  • Sometimes the illness lasts longer than 48 hrs, and the mucous membranes and other tissues become swollen, including the eyes, nose, mouth, ears (which become droopy) and the genital and anal areas.
  • The entire face may become very swollen, and thick pus may be discharged from the nose and the rabbit may have difficulty breathing.
  • Most rabbits die within 14 days.

In more chronic cases, lumps and nodules may develop over the body. Rabbits with this form may survive, and become immune to Myxomatosis virus. This seems to be a less likely course of disease in domestic rabbits, however, with most suffering from the acute forms with eventual death.

Treatment:

There is no specific treatment for Myxomatosis so only supportive care (fluids, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, etc.) can be offered. However, because domestic rabbits tend to be very susceptible to the virus and tend to suffer for some time prior to dying, euthanasia is often recommended to prevent suffering.

Prevention:

  • Keep your rabbit indoors and away from insects (especially at dawn and dusk).
  • Control insects that may spread disease (e.g. screens, no standing water in yard, an appropriate flea control program).
  • Don’t take rabbits to fairs, shows, or any other places where rabbits are brought together when an outbreak is underway.
  • Quarantine sick rabbits and take steps to prevent direct transmission via your clothes, food dishes, and other supplies. Place mosquito netting over infected rabbits’ cages.
  • Quarantine rabbits that have been exposed to the virus for 14 days.
  • Products are available to repel ectoparasites which can transmit Myxomatosis – speak to your vet about these.

Vaccination:

Rabbits can be vaccinated against Myxomatosis from 6 weeks of age. Rabbits should not be vaccinated while pregnant or ill.

After the first vaccination, regular boosters are required. Boosters are given either every 12 months or every 6 months, depending on the risk in your local area.

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