Myxomatosis was originally introduced into Australia to control large numbers of wild rabbits. Just over fifty years ago in 1953, the disease was introduced into France with devastating results not only for the wild rabbit population but for domestic rabbits also. The same year Myxomatosis found its way from France to Britain’s shores and rapidly spread across the country having devastating results on the wild rabbit population but not killing off large numbers of domestic rabbits as was prevalent in France.
However Myxomatosis remains a clear and present danger to all domestic and wild rabbits in Britain and it is fleas and mosquitoes, which spread the deadly disease through biting an unsuspecting rabbit. Rabbits whose living accommodation is outside are more at risk of contracting the disease, but this doesn’t exclude house rabbits that have also been known to catch the disease. Symptoms of myxomatosis include severe swelling, which affects the eyelids, ears, sexual organs and other areas of the body. Lumps may form on the body and head and discharge may appear from the nasal cavity and the eyes resulting in the eyelids becoming sealed shut and blindness occurring. In the majority of cases death is inevitable, which usually occurs between seven and twelve days.
Myxomatosis affects all rabbits and causes immense suffering and pain. Prevention is better than cure and although vaccinated rabbits can catch the disease the risk is less than rabbits who have not been vaccinated. Presently a commercial rabbit vaccine is available to inoculate your bunny against Myxomatosis; the vaccine (Nobi-vac Myxo) can be given to a kit (baby rabbit) as young as 6 weeks of age and must be followed by an annual booster, although many vets insist on a booster every 6 months.
A new single vaccine covering Myxomatosis and VHD is now available from most Vets which is cheaper and administered once yearly. Please ask your vet for details.