Part of caring for your rabbit is ensuring that it gets the appropriate preventive care from a veterinarian or animal clinic. Just like other pets, such as cats and dogs, there are illnesses and diseases that rabbits are prone to. Therefore, when you get a pet bunny, you should schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian to get your rabbit the vaccinations it needs. There are two primary vaccinations given to rabbits, which are for two fatal viruses that can be common among rabbits: Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD).
What is it?
Myxomatosis is a virus that is transmitted by biting insects, such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. This virus is widespread in some parts of the country, so your bunny should be vaccinated against it. There is no specific treatment for myxomatosis, which means recovery from this illness is rare if your bunny contracts a severe form of the virus and death within 10 to 14 days is common. Some of the symptoms of myxomatosis include:
- high fever
- difficulty eating and drinking
- swelling, discharge, and a general puffy appearance around the eyes, ears, nose, and throat
- swelling that spreads to the rabbit’s anus and genital area
- random swollen lumps across the rabbit’s body
- poor vision and even blindness
Vaccinating your rabbit for myxomatosis is your primary weapon of defence against the virus. However, it is also a good idea to keep your rabbit away from foreign rabbits who may have fleas that carry the virus or have the virus themselves, because the illness is contagious. Be sure to see your vet for vaccination against myxomatosis at about six weeks of age.
VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease)
What is it?
VHD is primarily carried by wild rabbits and was first reported in Ireland around 1992. VHD is an ongoing problem in the country and there have been many reported rabbit deaths related to the disease. This viral disease is commonly fatal about 50 percent of the time and sometimes shows few symptoms before the rabbit is found dead. However, a few commonly missed indications of the disease include:
- high fever
- internal bleeding or haemorrhaging
- liver failure
- loss of appetite or weight loss
- nose bleeds
In many cases, because the symptoms go unnoticed, VHD is not diagnosed or discovered until it is already too late. One of the primary reasons to vaccinate against VHD is that it is so widespread and so easily transmitted. The virus can live on clothing, can be transmitted by humans carrying the bacteria after picking it up from another animal, and can live as long as three months on clothing, shoes, or inside a contaminated hutch. Vaccination against the virus should be given at six weeks old, or as soon as possible thereafter.
After a visit to the vet and the necessary vaccinations for your pet rabbit, you will be given a document that shows your bunny has had its shots and when it will be necessary to get the next round of vaccinations. For more information on preventative care for your rabbit, take a look at the learning centre on Rabbits.ie.