Please Vaccinate Your Rabbit

Welcome to the first of our blogs. I decided that this might be another helpful way for us to increase awareness of Rabbit Welfare issues, so I’ll give it a go and see how we get on ;o)

I recently received a First Alert notification (email warning system) from the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund advising of some recent cases of VHD within my local area (Glasgow). VHD is a nasty, swift killer and I was immediately concerned. Thankfully, I could sit back in comfort knowing that all three of my pet rabbits were safe, having all recently received their VHD vaccinations, but my heart went out to all the rabbits who want be quite so lucky.

VHD is the least known rabbit killer disease, and sadly most rabbit owners just don’t know it exists. It ranks highly alongside Myxomatosis as being the major contributor to early deaths in pet rabbits. The saddest part of course being that both these deadly diseases are completely preventable.

But with the cost of vaccinations being as high as it is (ranging from £15 – £30 depending on the vacc and the size of your pet), is it really worth it?

Myxomatosis decimated the wild rabbit population when it arrived in Britain 50 years ago. It is still deadly today. Myxomatosis starts with severe conjunctivitis. Next, affected rabbits develop swellings around the head and genital regions; become increasingly weak; go blind; and eventually die. If an unvaccinated pet rabbit catches myxomatosis, it is doomed. Most vets advise euthanasia as soon as the diagnosis is made because the outlook is so bleak, even with intensive treatment.

Vaccination is the keystone of a package of measures you should take to protect your rabbit. Rabbits can be vaccinated from 6 weeks of age. The Myxi vaccine is a single injection, part of which is given into – rather than under – the skin.

Myxo previously was recommended as an annual injection, but most vet practices are now recommending having a booster every 6 months as the virus has escalated again in recent years.

VHD arrived in Britain in 1992, although many people have not heard of it before. VHD is a swift and efficient killer – almost all rabbits who catch VHD die within a day or two. The virus causes massive internal bleeding. Some rabbits bleed from the nose and back passage before death, others die so quickly there may be no outward sign of disease at all. Owners often think their rabbit has died of “fright”, a “heart attack” or (in summer) “heatstroke”. Most cases are never diagnosed: VHD is only suspected when several rabbits die in quick succession.

VHD is spread by direct contact with infected rabbits, or indirectly via their urine/faeces. The virus can survive for months in the environment, and is terrifyingly easy to bring home to your pets.

I am sad to admit that when I first starting keeping rabbit I was not aware of VHD, and my vet at the time had not bothered to make me aware of the dangers that it could bring. Unfortunately, I learnt the hard way when one of my rabbits passed away as a result of VHD which we suspect had been introduced via some new equipment I had bought from an online pet store where the equiipment had been stored near to livestock. At the time, I didn’t realise the importance of disinfecting cages and equipment (an absolute MUST by the way!) and so the combination of not having disinfected the area and not have the VHD vaccination seems to have been the problem.

VHD is an annual booster, but please check with your local vet as this may be increased in areas where VHD is particularly problematic.

So why have your rabbit vaccinated? It’s easier than dealing with a sick or dead pet. It’s the responsible thing to do for your pet’s health. It will help to ensure you have many happy years to enjoy your bunny.

If you have any questions or concerns about vaccinations, VHD or Myxo please don’t hesitate to contact us or contact your vet.