This is probably too wide a topic to cover in one blog to be honest, so we’re going to focus on the main message of the Rabbit Awareness Week this year: Prevent and Protect – Rabbits Need Vaccinating Too.

“”I’ve never vaccinated my rabbits and there’s never been a problem. Why should I start now?””

“”My rabbits are indoors so can’t get myxo or RHD””

“”My garden’s secure so the risk doesn’t exist””

We’ve heard all these reasons, and more, countless times. People don’t usually question the need to vaccinate babies, dogs or cats – we all seem to have grown up in modern times to know that the risks are too high. Many of the things we vaccinate against outwith the rabbit population are historic diseases that haven’t been seen for decades, but we continue to vaccinate in the knowledge that it is the vaccination courses that’s keeping the disease under control.

In the rabbit world though, people seem to be far more relaxed about it. Yet, the diseases we’re dealing with here are active. Now. In your area. And deadly to your rabbit!

Myxomatosis (sometimes shortened to “”myxo””) is a disease that affects rabbits and is caused by the Myxoma virus. At first, normally the disease is visible by lumps (myxomata) and puffiness around the head and genitals. It then may progress to acute conjunctivitis and possibly blindness; however, this also may be the first indication of the disease. The rabbits become listless, lose appetite, and develop a fever. Secondary bacterial infections occur in most cases which cause pneumonia and purulent inflammation of the lungs. In typical cases where the rabbit has no resistance death may take place rapidly, often in as little as 48 hours. Death usually occurs within 14 days.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD), also known as rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD) or viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD), is a highly infectious and often fatal disease that affects wild and domestic rabbits. RHD primarily infects only adult rabbits. In fact, research has shown that rabbits younger than 8 weeks of age are resistant to the virus. The incubation period for the RHD virus is between 1 to 3 days, with death following 1 to 2 days after the infection. There is a wide range of RHD symptoms. Most rabbits will show no signs of external symptoms of RHD.

Both viruses are transmitted via direct contact with an infected animal. This includes insects which may carry the virus between rabbits via bites – one of only a few ways even indoor rabbits are vulnerable.

It doesn’t matter how strong you think your rabbit is. It doesn’t matter where your rabbit sleeps, what it eats or how well you disinfect their environment, YOUR RABBIT IS AT RISK FROM DEADLY VIRUSES.

The new Myxo-RHD vaccine, which we’ve described here in a previous blog, makes preventing these deadly diseases very simple. An annual vaccine, costing in the region of £32 typically, will protect your rabbit.

All rabbits adopted from FBRC will be vaccinated at time of adoption.

Other Health Issues

Rabbits suffer from various other health issues that you must be wary of. Its also important to remember that as rabbits are prey animals they are experts at hiding illness. This often means that by the time you notice there is an issue it can often be quite advanced and may need urgent medical attention!

Whilst we can’t go into full detail today, these include:

  • Gut problems (GI Stasis) – rabbits’ stomachs need to keep moving constantly, but stress and other conditions can cause their stomach to stop (or become blocked). This is a very common issue that needs immediate attention to get them eating and toileting again. This will often need vet intervention.
  • Flystrike – a maggot related attack on messy bottoms, fast acting and potentially fatal. See RWAF’s leaflet on this topic
  • E-Cuniculi – a parasite triggered condition affecting the rabbits brain. See RWAF’s leaflet on this topic.
  • Dental problems affecting growth of front and rear teeth. This is very common, with 70% of vet visits resulting in dental work required. In most cases though this can also be prevented through correct diet ( a topic of a later blog).
  • Mites – affecting fur and ears.
  • General maintenance: clipping claws, brushing fur (especially for long-haired breeds that need daily grooming).

Due to the delicate nature of rabbits’ health, it can get very expensive very quickly! One of various reasons we recommend having pet insurance for your rabbit. We can offer 4 weeks free – just ask us for further details.

For further advice on rabbit health issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us. However please note, we are not veterinary trained and cannot diagnose conditions for you. If you think your rabbit is unwell don’t hesitate to seek veterinary advice.