Rabbits require yearly vaccines against myxomatosis, rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RHD) and the newer rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease 2 (RHD2). These diseases all cause intense suffering and death.
This is a viral disease which is spread by fleas, mites and biting flies such as mosquitos. It is widespread in the UK in wild rabbits. Symptoms start with puffy swellings around the face, ears, eyes and genitals. It will then progress to cause a fever and eating and drinking become difficult. Death usually occurs within 2 weeks. There is no treatment and recovery is rare. Vaccinated rabbits will still be at risk of catching this disease but will often recover after veterinary care.
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic disease (RHD).
This viral disease is also widespread in wild rabbits in the UK. It is an extremely serious disease that is often fatal. It causes high fever, internal bleeding and liver disease. Rabbits which have been infected are often found dead. Only rabbits over 8-10 weeks of old are affected. The disease is spread in the environment or by rabbit to rabbit contact. There is no effective treatment and vaccination is vital.
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic disease 2 (RHD2).
This is a new strain of Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease that has been in the UK since 2013. Unfortunately the original vaccine is not effective for this new strain. It is less deadly than the original strain as a few rabbits may recover. However it can spread rapidly and can affect rabbits of any age. It also has a slower onset and slower disease progression. This leads to vaguer signs such as appetite loss and lethargy. Vaccinated rabbits are much more likely to survive infection and so vaccination is vital.
We strongly recommend vaccinating all rabbits, especially those that are kept outdoors. Indoor rabbits should be vaccinated too as these diseases can be spread in the environment. There are two rabbit vaccines that your rabbit needs. A combined vaccine for Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic disease should be given annually. This vaccine can be given from 5 weeks of age. A single separate vaccine is required to protect against Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 and should be given yearly from 10 weeks of age. As there is no effective treatments vaccination with both vaccines is crucial to protect your rabbit. The two vaccines should be given at least 2 weeks apart.
Other things you can do.
Cleaning and disinfection is important to stop the spread of these diseases. Plant collected from the wild should be thoroughly washed or avoided if wild rabbits are nearby. When handling other rabbits you should change your clothes and wash your hands before then handling your own.
If your rabbit is not currently vaccinated, please book an appointment today by calling on 01702 545558.
For information on what to feed your rabbit click here.