You may have heard myxomatosis referred to as “myxo” or “myxy”, it is caused by the myxoma virus.
Affected rabbits most commonly develop swellings to the eyes, nose and genitals. They will often become lethargic and develop a fever. Rabbits suffering from the virus are also more susceptible to infections, some severe like pneumonia. The virus affects the brain and is so serious that there is unfortunately no cure, however, a vaccination has been developed to help prevent the disease as much as possible.
How is myxomatosis spread?
Myxomatosis is mainly spread between rabbits by blood-sucking insects, including fleas, ticks, mites and mosquitoes. The disease can also be transmitted through direct contact with an infected rabbit and the virus can survive for days to weeks in hutches, food bowls, etc.
People can transmit the disease by handling a sick animal and then moving to a healthy one, or even handling the food bowl of the healthy rabbits.
Myxomatosis spreads rapidly among wild rabbit populations and can easily be passed onto domestic rabbits. Unfortunately, it’s prevalent throughout the UK and no area is safe from the disease.
What are the symptoms of myxomatosis?
Clinical signs of myxomatosis vary depending on the strain of the virus involved and the specific species of rabbit infected. However, it can take up to 14 days for an infected rabbit to begin to show symptoms.
Once the virus takes hold, it is usually the eyes, nose and genitals to show physical evidence of the virus. These symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal and eye discharge
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Swelling around the head and face
- Respiratory problems
- Blindness caused by the severe inflammation of the eyes
- Neurological signs such as stupor or coma
How do I prevent my rabbit from getting myxomatosis?
It’s advisable to get your rabbit regularly vaccinated against myxomatosis and to control external parasites such as fleas and mosquitoes. Please contact us for advice on which products to use or to make an appointment for Myxomatosis Vaccination.
Although, like all vaccines, it may not protect your rabbit completely, a vaccinated rabbit stands a much better chance of beating the virus. Vaccinated rabbits often only experience a mild form of myxomatosis and can still recover with proper veterinary care.
If myxomatosis occurs in an area, rabbits should not be taken to fairs, rabbit shows or anywhere these animals are congregated. If a rabbit is exposed to an infected animal, they should be sufficiently quarantined for a period of 14 days and cared for and handled as though they were infected.
After 14 days, if the rabbit does not show symptoms, or develop a fever, it can be assumed that they have not been infected by the virus.
If you are at all concerned that your rabbit may have contracted Myxomatosis please contact us for advice or to make an appointment with you vet.
How is myxomatosis treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for myxomatosis.
For a wild rabbit and unvaccinated pet rabbits, it usually kills or leaves the rabbit in need of euthanasia. However, if your vaccinated rabbit catches a mild form of the virus, there’s a good chance that they will make a full recovery with supportive care from a qualified veterinarian.
Could another of my pets catch myxomatosis from an infected rabbit?
No, myxomatosis can only affect rabbits. Any other animals or humans will not be at risk.
If you have any concerns about your pet rabbit or need to organise an appointment for them to be vaccinated against Myxomatosis, please give us a call:
Tiptree Vets – 01621 818282 London Road Vets – 01206 544918