As spring approaches we need to prepare our rabbits for a horrible disease threat. This is called myxomatosis. It is a virus that is spread by insects such as fleas, mites and biting flies. Because these insects that spread the disease start to become much more numerous as the weather warms up, we start to see this horrible, often fatal disease start to peak in springtime. Some of these insects can be spread in the hay, and can survive for months, so even indoor rabbits can be at risk.

Myxomatosis initially causes watery eyes, this progresses quickly to swollen eyelids, nose and genitals. The eyes will become so swollen that they close up and the rabbit struggles to breathe through the swollen nose. They get a very high temperature and often stop eating. Most rabbits that catch myxomatosis will die a prolonged death over 10 days or so and therefore we often advise euthanasia if we have a unvaccinated rabbit that is diagnosed with it.

Myxomatosis is preventable, there is a good vaccine, but this vaccine only lasts about a year. Therefore it is advisable to give this vaccine late winter so that it is up and working well by the springtime and it will be at its strongest through the summer, into autumn time. By the time the vaccine starts to wear off then it is winter and the risk of myxomatosis is very low.

Vaccinated rabbits can catch myxomatosis but it is rare. The disease is often much milder and they will usually survive. The myxomatosis vaccination that we use at Bay Vets is combined with prevention of another disease called VHD (viral hemorrhagic disease) so we are protecting against two fatal diseases in one vaccination. Of course the vaccination includes a health check to look for other problems in your bunny including dental and skin diseases, you will also get lots of advice from your vet about the right diet to prevent many other problems.