We vaccinate our bunnies annually to protect them against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (two strains – RHD-1 and RHD-2). The vaccinations stimulate their immune system so that if our bunnies do ever encounter these viruses, they are able to mount an immune response against them and fight them off.
These viruses are highly contagious and have no cure; If an unvaccinated bunny contracts one of these viruses they very rarely survive. Vaccinating them doesn’t stop them encountering these viruses, and they can sometimes become ill as a result, but it gives them a much higher chance of surviving. This is because they get a much milder form of the disease and therefore develop less severe signs.
Myxomatosis tends to infect the eyes, nose and genitals first but can take up to 2 weeks for bunnies to show signs. Symptoms include swelling, redness, discharge, breathing problems, loss of appetite and lethargy and once these are present they tend to go downhill very quickly.
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease targets rabbit’s internal organs and causes internal bleeding. The most common symptom with RHD-1 is sudden death, often with bleeding from the nose or mouth afterwards. RHD-2 tends to have a slower progression but still sadly causes death.
Where can your bunny pick up these viruses?
The RHD viruses can be passed directly from one rabbit to another (they can be coughed up, in urine, saliva or their poo) but it can also live well in the environment; This means it can stick to things like bunny’s feet or our shoes and then be carried anywhere, including indoors. Both outdoor and indoor bunnies are therefore at risk. This is why we always recommend vaccinating no matter what set up your bunny has. Myxomatosis can be spread by flies and other blood-sucking insects and, similarly to RHD, by direct transmission from one rabbit to another. Essentially, these diseases are very easily spread which is another reason vaccination is so important.
Which vaccinations does my bunny need?
Vaccinations used to be given in two separate injections – usually with the first being against myxomatosis and RHD-1 and the second against RHD-2. Since last year, there is now a combined vaccination that covers all three in one vaccination. We would strongly recommend having your bunny vaccinated against the three diseases in order to give them the highest level of protection possible. Vaccinations do occasionally cause a reaction in bunnies, but this tends to be mild and far outweighs the risk of getting one of these deadly diseases. If you would like more information about vaccinations please contact your vet and they should be happy to discuss this with you.