Vaccinations for Rabbits
Why Vaccination is important
Whether your rabbit spends time in the garden or has a run of the house, it could be at risk from life threatening diseases.
When a rabbit encounters an infection for the first time, its immune system will try and protect it against the disease the infection might cause. Vaccination teaches your rabbit’s immune system in advance how to recognise and defend against infection and disease. Some infections may cause incurable diseases and may be deadly.
How does vaccination work?
Vaccines contain harmless variants of viruses and other infectious agents. In response to vaccination, your rabbit’s immune system generates a protective mechanism. This mechanism then prevents similar infections causing the disease we wish to protect your rabbit against. It is important that your rabbit is healthy at the time of vaccination.
Pet rabbits should be vaccinated routinely against both Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) and myxomatosis. Both these viral diseases are widespread and endemic in wild rabbits in the United Kingdom are likely to prove fatal in unprotected rabbits if they are exposed. There is no effective treatment for either disease.
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease
RHD is spread by direct contact between rabbits but also via indirect contact from contaminated environments and also via mechanical transfer from insects. The acute form can be very distressing, attacking the liver and causing severe bleeding, which kills the rabbit. Most infected animals die very quickly, often with no warning at all or only a very short period of obvious illness. The virus that causes this disease is particularly persistent and survives for a long time in the environment. Because of this persistence, it can spread very easily on clothing and footwear. Birds and insects can also transport the virus and therefore even the contained ‘House Rabbit’: is at risk.
This Virus is commonly spread by fleas and other biting insects and but can also be transmitted by direct contact with other infected rabbits.
The virus that causes this disease is caused by blood sucking insects such as fleas and mosquitos. When the insect bites the rabbit, small amounts of the virus are introduced into the rabbit. The virus multiplies in the skin of the face, ears and anus casing large swellings. These swellings make it difficult to see, eat and drink. Death takes about 12 days but a small percentage may recover. Expert medical care can lead to recovery but many still will die. Surviving animals can be left with significant scarring.
When to vaccinate?
Rabbits can be vaccinated from 6 weeks of age. It is important to vaccinate as early as possible. Protection from the initial vaccination will not last for a rabbits lifetime and immunity will wane over time.
Booster vaccinations are essential and are recommended annually. Rabbits that are exposed to high-risk areas, more frequent vaccination may be recommended.