Myxomatosis is a highly infectious and usually fatal virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes, fleas or by close contact with an infected rabbit. Myxomatosis kills many rabbits in the UK every year, and all rabbits are susceptible whether kept indoors or outdoors.
Signs of myxomatosis include:
- Red swollen eyes
- Loss of appetite
Whilst there is a very small chance that a vaccinated rabbit can still develop myxomatosis, the disease in this instance is far less severe and has a much higher chance of successful treatment.
An unvaccinated rabbit surviving a myxomatosis infection is very unusual. There is no specific treatment for the virus, and sadly only supportive care such as fluids and antibiotics can be provided to help ease the pain and discomfort. As supportive care is so rarely successful in myxomatosis cases, euthanasia is usually recommended.
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease is also known as Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease and has several acronyms: RHD, RVHD, VHD and RHD1. This virus is extremely contagious and sadly once a rabbit is infected it is almost always fatal.
Signs are often difficult to detect because RHD can kill a rabbit very quickly, which is why any sudden rabbit death should be regarded as suspicious.
RHD causes bleeding to the internal organs of the rabbit so if signs are seen these can include:
- A fever
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Blood stained discharge from the nose or mouth
- Seizures (fits)
The RHD virus is very resistant and can remain active in the environment for many months. It can be transmitted through both direct and indirect contact. Transmission is quick and does not require prolonged contact; an infected rabbit can pass the virus directly to another by nose to nose contact or via food bowls, bedding, urine and faeces.
Insects, birds & rodents can all spread these diseases to rabbits and humans can carry the virus on their clothes if they have been in contact with an infected rabbit.
There is a second strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease, often referred to as RHD2.
RHD2 has some differences to RHD1, but the virus is still associated with severe internal bleeding, rapid death in many cases and can remain active in the environment for a long time.
The disease is seen across the UK and vaccinating rabbits against this condition is extremely important.
Castration of males and spaying of females is vital to helping rabbits live a long and healthy life.
Neutering allows rabbits to be kept in the pairs or groups that are so vital to their welfare; prevent’s life-threatening health problems (especially in female rabbits) and of course prevents unwanted pregnancies.