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Greenmount Vets
72 Gilford Road,
Portadown, Co Armagh,
BT63 5EG
Tel: 028 38 358525/352640

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Myxomatosis in pet rabbits

Over the last few months we have seen an increase in the number of cases of Myxomatosis, both in pet and wild rabbits, around Portadown. A lot of people don’t consider that wild rabbits can gain access to their gardens especially if you live near the parks, in the leafy areas of town or in the country, and hence spread the disease.

Myxomatosis is caused by a pox virus which originated from South America. The virus can be spread by direct contact between rabbits, but most often by rabbit fleas and the virus can survive for several months in over wintering rabbit fleas!

In an attempt to reduce rabbit numbers the myxoma virus was intentionally introduced to Australia. By accident the virus was also introduced into Europe decimating the wild rabbit population.


What are the symptoms of Myxomatosis in Rabbits?

This is a horrible disease usually causing 100% death/ mortality after suffering for on average 13 days with widespread skin sores especially on the head and the eyelids which results in blindness.

There are other forms of Myxomatosis that result in respiratory symptoms that can be very difficult to differentiate from other causes of pneumonia such as pasturellae.

Treatment

Unfortunately treatment of rabbits suffering with the acute form of the disease is disappointing. Even with excellent nursing from an attentive owner who manages to keep the affected rabbit eating and drinking they often die of breathing complications after 2 weeks. Thus we find that it is more humane to euthanase them once the diagnosis of acute Myxomatosis has been made.

How can you control the spread of Myxomatosis?

If you have had a case of myxomatosis in a pet rabbit, in order to control the spread it is important to do three things:

· Disinfect the area where the affected rabbit was to kill the virus.

· Control rabbit fleas that can spread the virus.

· Vaccinate the remaining rabbits immediately.

The use of the cat flea control product Advantage® can be useful in controlling rabbit fleas.


How can we help prevent Myxomatosis infection?

As there is no effective treatment, prevention by vaccination is the best policy. We recommend vaccination of all rabbits, which have any access to outdoors.The vaccine we use can be given to rabbits as young as 6 weeks old and produces immunity 14 days after vaccination. Normally rabbits are booster vaccinated annually but where there is a high risk of Myxomatosis infection we advise revaccination every 6 months.