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Rabbit Vaccinations: Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)

Rabbits are vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD). Myxomatosis can be given from the age of 6 weeks, and VHD from the age of 12 weeks. The vaccines can not be given within 2 weeks of each other (to avoid overloading the immune system

Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis can be a fatal disease and is caused by the Myxoma virus, from the pox family. It is common within the wild rabbit population in the UK. Myxo is spread by direct contact with an infected rabbit and via insect bites (mosquitoes, tick, mites and fleas).

Symptoms

Within a few days of symptoms, the discharge is very thick and eating and swallowing becomes difficult. Secondary infections such as pneumonia occur because of the damaged immune system.

Vaccinated rabbits can still develop myxomatosis, but it will be milder as the vaccination has bolstered the immune system. It is sometimes known as ‘Nodular Myxi’.

Treatment

An unvaccinated rabbit with full blown myxomatosis has a very low chance of survival, even with veterinary treatment, euthanasia maybe the kindest option to prevent suffering.

A vaccinated rabbit has a much higher survival rate.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)

Also known as Haemorrhagic Viral Disease [HVD], Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease [RHD], Rabbit Calicivirus Disease [RCD] and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease [RVHD]

VHD, is part of the Calici virus family.

VHD has an incubation period of 1-3 days, and rabbits will die within 48 hours of infection. Rabbits less than 8 weeks old are almost entirely resistant to the virus, due to the antibodies passed from the mother.

VHD is spread via direct contact, parasites, wild animals and via contamination. The virus can survive for several months without a host, so can needs to be taken when using second hand hutches/ equipment.

Symptoms

Prevention

Vaccination is very successful; it can be done from 12-14 weeks of age. The vaccination is also safe for pregnant rabbits. A booster needs to be given every 12 months to ensure continued protection.

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