Rabbits run the risk of contracting one of two possibly fatal infectious diseases: myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD) but the good news is you can protect your rabbit from both of these through vaccination with a combined vaccine.
When should your rabbit be vaccinated?
Rabbits can be vaccinated from 5 weeks of age. Generally it takes about 3 weeks for the immunity to develop and your rabbit to be protected.
Immunity to these diseases does not last indefinitely and will gradually fall leaving your rabbit at risk.
After the primary vaccination course, your rabbit will then need booster vaccinations every year for both diseases.
What is Myxomatosis?
This disease is caused by a type of pox virus which grows best in the skin of rabbits. The disease was originally introduced to the United Kingdom accidentally from France, where the disease had been imported to control the rabbit population.
Myxomatosis is spread by blood sucking insects. A major insect parasite which transmits the disease in this country is the rabbit flea. There is also strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that mosquitoes transmit myxomatosis in the United Kingdom. Myxomatosis is not easily spread by simple contact between rabbits.
Affected rabbits develop a high fever, swelling around the eyes and go off their food and water.
The commonest cause of death is pneumonia.
What is Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)?
This disease, caused by a virus, only affects adult rabbits and hares. It was first identified in wild rabbits in China in 1984 and rapidly spread to Europe and the United Kingdom.
The virus is spread in saliva and nasal secretions and is passed either directly from rabbit to rabbit contact or indirectly by the transport of the virus on people, clothing, other objects or animals.
Only rabbits over the age of 6 weeks are seriously affected, though many of these will die suddenly.