Myxomatosis

So we hit that time of year again when we are inundated with phone calls,  people seeing dead rabbits and people reporting wild bunnies with sticky swollen eyes. Its what we veterinary professionals call MYXI season !

Probably the worst part of any veterinary professionals job is euthanasing an animal for a disease or problem that could be prevented.

Myxomatosis is a severe viral disease that affects rabbits. Every year hundreds of wild rabbits die form the disease, and still every year people fail to provide the best protection for their rabbits. Myxomatosis poses a threat to all rabbits including pet rabbits, the risk can vary depending on whether your bunny lives inside or outside. Pet rabbits living outside are at far greater risk of contracting myxomatosis, especially if they could have contact with wild rabbits. This does not mean that indoor rabbits are safe and fully protected from contracting the disease as fleas can be transmitted via other vectors such as cats, dogs and also yourself.

Myxomatosis is spread and contracted via biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes, it can also be spread via the Cheyletiella fur mite also known as ‘walking dandruff’. Because of this risk it is vital to treat your pets, including rabbits with a suitable flea treatment.

Fleas can be transmitted via wild rabbits, foxes and hares that may visit your gardens and also from dogs and cats ,and lets face it cats are everywhere.

There are a number of flea treatments that you can buy, but in my job I see so many that are ineffective , far too many to name!. Veterinary flea treatments are the safest and most effective treatments to use, they also may not cost as much as people think. Advantage is the only licensed flea treatment available for rabbits.

Paying for a flea treatment that works is much cheaper than paying the consequences of a treatment that doesn’t.

At St Clair veterinary care we offer free weight checks and  advice on all aspects of animal husbandry and also parasite prevention. It is important to have an up to date weight for your rabbit when purchasing flea treatment so we can ensure safe and efficient dosing.

Myxomatosis is a dreadful disease that can cause immense suffering and pain. Infected rabbits can take up to 2 weeks to die and treatment is usually futile, which is why we recommend euthanasia. Symptoms usually start with runny sticky eyes  and the genitals become swollen. The eyes become swollen and severe conjunctivitis causes blindness. There may also be some lump like swellings to the head and a thick pus from the nose and eyes. All in all its a horrific painful death and one which I have seen far too often.

At St Clair we recommend that your rabbits are vaccinated yearly with a combination VHD and Myxomatosis vaccine. This vaccination is vital as part of the package of protective measures you can use to protect your rabbits. Un-vaccinated rabbits very rarely survive a case of myxomatosis. If a vaccinated rabbit is unlucky enough to contract it , the situation is far less critical and the outcome is far less painful and altogether a happier one. Trust me I hope that none of you ever have to deal with a case of myxomatosis and if this blog reaches just a handful of rabbit owners to raise awareness, then that’s a few less potential myxo cases we have to deal with.

If someone told you that you could have a vaccine that could potentially save you from a painful, life threatening illness would you do it ?

The RWA (rabbit welfare association) run regular campaigns and give advice on all aspects of rabbit care. I urge all rabbit owners to take a look at their website. Of course the staff at St Clair are also here to offer free advice and answer any questions you may have regarding your pet rabbits. Please remember a phrase I say every day PREVENTION IS FAR BETTER THAN CURE.

Natasha Banks RVN

Head veterinary Nurse