Rabbit Vaccines

Some helpful information

All you need to know

  • Myxomatosis
  • Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease
  • Flea Control
  • Vaccination


Is widespread in the UK and is usually fatal. Myxomatosis is caused by the myxoma virus, a type of pox virus that only affects rabbits. It was first discovered in 1896 in Uruguay and was imported to Australia in 1951 to control its large rabbit populations – initially having the desired devastating effect. The disease was illegally introduced to France in 1952 and it appeared in Britain the following year. It quickly spread to both wild and domestic rabbit populations and within a few years had spread throughout Europe. Myxomatosis has been a threat to wild and domestic rabbits ever since.

Who is at risk?  

All rabbits, whether wild or domestic, are at risk of Myxomatosis.

How is it spread?  

Myxomatosis is typically spread by blood-sucking insects and in particular the rabbit flea, Spilopsyllus cuniculi. This flea is frequently found on wild rabbits and transmission in the absence of bites is unusual. All breeds of domestic rabbit can be affected, with little to suggest that one breed is more susceptible than another, and whatever the lifestyle of your rabbit, there is a potential risk of this disease.

Signs and symptoms  

The incubation period varies depending on the strain and its virulence and is typically at least five days. Accompanying the classic bulging eyes that most of us associate with Myxomatosis, there are localised swellings around the head, face, ears, lips, anus and genitalia. Severe swellings can lead to blindness and distortion around the face within a day or so of the onset of symptoms, leading to difficulty with feeding and drinking. Bacterial respiratory infection often complicates the disease, resulting in a fatal pneumonia.

Management of Myxomatosis  

There is no specific treatment for the virus and any treatment offered is merely supportive.

Help prevent your rabbit contracting Myxomatosis

It is important to put various controls in place, for which there are two main methods: control of parasites and vaccination.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease

 (RHD) is increasing in significance and causes sudden death 1-3 days after it is contracted.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD), also known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD), is a very serious, infectious disease which first emerged in China during the 1980s that can affect rabbits. Within a few years, this disease was seen virtually worldwide and it is now an endemic disease in wild rabbits in the UK. The disease is extremely sudden in onset in many cases, with the only sign often seen in an infected rabbit is that it is found dead.

Who is at risk?

All rabbits are potentially at risk of RHD.                                  

How is it spread?

RHD is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) but also via indirect contact. Possible sources of indirect transfer are people, clothing, contaminated hutches and bedding, as well as insect vectors such as fleas and flies.

Cause of RHD 

RHD is caused by a calicivirus and has an incubation period of just one to three days. The virus itself is very stable in the environment and can survive for up to 105 days.

Signs and symptoms

Signs include depression, collapse, difficulty in breathing, convulsions, high body temperature, lethargy and bleeding from the nose. Death usually occurs within 12-36 hours after the onset of fever and the mortality rate can be as high as 90-100%.

Prevention and control

RHD vaccination can be given to provide effective protection against this disease from as early as 5 weeks of age. A dual vaccine for rabbits, covering both Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease, has recently been launched in the UK. This new vaccine provides efficient protection for rabbits against both diseases and, as with existing RHD vaccines, an annual booster is sufficient to maintain immunity.

Flea Control

Always keep a regular check on pets for any signs of fleas and consider the regular use of an insecticidal treatment from your vet. There is also evidence to suggest that mosquitoes and other biting flies may transmit Myxomatosis in the UK, so nets and insect repellent can be used to combat this threat in warmer weather. Your vet will be able to advise you further on these measures, since not all products are suitable or safe for rabbits.


A dual vaccination covering both Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) has recently been launched in the UK and is designed to replace the older Myxomatosis-only product during 2012. This new vaccine provides efficient and effective protection of rabbits against both diseases.

It is recommended that a single dose of the new vaccine is given to all rabbits over the age of five weeks and requires an annual booster to maintain protection.

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