The most well known rabbit disease, myxomatosis is rife in the wild rabbit population but domestic rabbits can be vaccinated...
Myxomatosis is the most well known of rabbit diseases and has been rife amongst wild rabbit populations worldwide since its first appearance in Uruguay in the late 1800s. It was introduced to the UK after World War II to reduce the rabbit population and is still used as such in Australia, where it is illegal to use the myxomatosis vaccine on domestic rabbits for fear the immunity will be transmitted into the wild rabbit population.
It is caused by the myxoma virus and is transmitted by mosquitoes, fleas or by direct contact with other rabbits. It is usually fatal and euthanasia is recommended as the rabbit will be in severe pain.
Unfortunately, as there are different strains of the virus vaccinated rabbits may also sometimes develop the disease in a less severe form. However, these rabbits can often be nursed back to health whereas unvaccinated rabbits will almost certainly die.
Symptoms usually appear in this order and are accommpanied by a high temperature:-
- runny eyes (often confused with conjunctivitis) progressing to blindness
- swellings on eyelids, ears, nose, mouth and ears or genitals
- thick pus discharge from swellings, nose and eyes
Prevention / Treatment
Rabbits can be vaccinated from 6 weeks old and need a booster twice yearly (or once yearly with the combined VHD vaccine).
There is currently no treatment for myxomatosis, other than palliative care to nurse the rabbit.