The Myxomatosis virus attacks multiple areas of the body including the skin, eyes, genitals, liver and lungs causing ulcers, anorexia and breathing difficulty. Infected rabbits often develop secondary infections which can result in pneumonia and unfortunately, death. Myxomatosis is an extremely aggressive and contagious disease of rabbits.
Myxomatosis is most commonly spread between rabbits by blood-sucking insects, such as fleas and mosquitoes, but can also occur via the bites of mites and lice. This virus spreads very quickly among wild rabbit populations and can easily be passed on to domestic rabbits in the vicinity by the insects. Even if your rabbit is kept exclusively indoors, they are still vulnerable to infection via bites from by flying insects. It can also be transmitted through contact with another infected rabbit. Infected rabbits shed the virus in eye and nasal discharge and from areas of eroded skin. The virus can survive in the environment for months and can be spread by contaminated objects such as water bottles, feeding bowls or people's hands.
It can take up to 14 days for an infected rabbit to begin to show symptoms. During the incubation period, the rabbits eating habits may change and they may appear depressed, as the virus takes hold, the symptoms become progressively worse.
|Days after infection
||Swelling at site of infection
||Fever, lethargy, loss of appetite
||Swelling around eyes, face and genital area
Skin lesions, ulcers and scabs on the face and body and lumps on body
Clear eye and nasal discharge that becomes milky or purulent and crusty
||Complete closure of eyelids due to swelling/ inflammation
||In most cases, death occurs
Contact your practice for an emergency appointment if you suspect your rabbit has myxomatosis, or if you have any concerns about changes in your rabbit’s health.
Vaccinated rabbits can still catch myxomatosis. However, they usually have much milder symptoms and with veterinary treatment the chance of survival is significantly increased.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for myxomatosis and most unvaccinated rabbits either sadly die or are put to sleep to relieve suffering.
Regular vaccinations are the only way to ensure your rabbit is protected from this highly contagious, deadly disease.
There are other measures that you can take to help control the spread of Myxomatosis:
- Avoid attracting insects to your rabbit by maintaining good hygiene.
- Regularly clean and disinfect your rabbits' enclosure and any areas they access, using a rabbit-safe disinfectant. Change bedding and litter regularly.
- Fit insect screens to outdoor hutches and runs.
- Keep parasite protection up to date for your rabbit and other pets in your household.
- If you buy your hay and straw direct from the producer, try to use farms where there have been no Myxomatosis outbreaks.
- Feed dust-extracted hay or kiln-dried grass.
- Ensure your garden is secure to prevent access to wild rabbits.
- Mosquitoes breed in standing water/ponds so it is best to eliminate these from your garden (and preferably from any neighbouring gardens as well).
- New rabbits should be vaccinated at least three weeks before being introduced to your existing rabbits.