When rabbits are born they have some immunity which has come from their mothers. This gives them the antibodies that allow them to fight diseases they encounter but over time this immunity reduces, which is where vaccination becomes important.
Vaccination will stimulate your rabbit’s own immunity and hence provide protection.
In rabbits a yearly booster vaccination is usually recommended but this may depend on risk factors.
There are two main diseases we vaccinate against in Rabbits:
Both of these diseases are usually fatal and in the case of RHD can often result in sudden death
All pet rabbits are at risk. Myxomatosis usually starts with swelling round the eyes and an ocular discharge. Swelling can then develop round the nose, lips, ears, genitalia and anus. They will often become listless and have problems eating and drinking. There are instances where rabbits have survived myxomatosis but as there is no specific treatment this can require 6-8 weeks of intensive care which can be distressing for both owners and rabbits alike.
Vaccinating against myxomatosis although is not 100% guaranteed protection, although the disease is milder and vaccinated rabbits will usually survive
The incubation period of RHD is as quick as 1-4 days.
There are two strains of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease:
RHD1 is the original strain and is rarely seen in rabbits under 8-10 weeks
RHD2 is the newer strain and cases have been reported since 2013 in the UK, this can affect rabbits of any age. There have been some reports of rabbits recovering from this new strain but these rabbits remain infectious for longer periods, resulting in more risk of spreading disease.
Diagnosis of RHD is very difficult especially with the new strain and it is often found at post-mortem after a sudden death. Signs that may be seen are lethargy and fever, reduced appetite and bleeding from the nose or bottom. Very often those rabbits infected with the new strain may not show these symptoms.
To give full protection against both Myxomatosis and RHD 1 and 2 two injections are required.
Myxo-RHD: this gives protection against myxomatosis and RHD 1. A single injection is given from 5 weeks of age, immunity is achieved three weeks later and lasts for 1 year. Annual vaccinations are recommended
Filavac: this gives protection against the new strain of RHD. It is a single injection from 10 weeks of age, immunity is achieved one week later. Annual vaccinations are recommended unless in a high-risk area in which vaccines every 6 months would be advised.
Unfortunately, these vaccines cannot be given together and there must be an interval of two weeks between.
Contact your local practice for any further information or to arrange a vaccination appointment.