Myxomatosis is an ever-increasing risk to pet rabbits. The disease is now seen all year round and recent outbreaks of the disease show that it is becoming more prevalent than ever.
The most common form of Myxomatosis is seen in rabbits that haven’t been vaccinated. Treatment for confirmed cases is usually not very effective and so euthanasia is recommended as the kindest option.
Myxomatosis starts with runny eyes and swollen genitals. It rapidly progresses to a severe conjunctivitis, which causes blindness followed by swelling of the head and genital region, plus lumps on the body. Thick pus discharges from the nose and swollen eyes. There are also two typical forms of Myxomatosis: one causes pneumonia and a snuffles-like illness; the other mainly affects skin and carries a better prognosis.
If a vaccinated rabbit develops Myxomatosis, the disease is usually much less severe. Some rabbits develop just a few odd skin lesions and remain otherwise well; others become quite poorly and suffer from swellings and conjunctivitis more like classical Myxomatosis. Vaccination turns a fatal illness into one that is treatable.
Pet rabbits could contract Myxomatosis in a variety of ways:
Pet rabbits affected by rabbit fleas are also at very high risk – rabbit owners who also have a dog or cat that hunts wild rabbits (or foxes that visit the garden and nose around rabbit hutches) must be very careful, incase rabbit fleas are brought back to the pet bunny.
Vaccination can start from as young as 6 weeks of age, but only healthy rabbits should be vaccinated and the vaccine can’t be administered to pregnant animals.
Vaccination is recommended to be given every 12 months now.
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