Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)

 Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)

What are Myxomatosis and VHD?

These are highly virulent viruses that are usually fatal in rabbits. Annual vaccination is the only method to prevent fatalities in both indoor and outdoor rabbits.

 How can my rabbit catch Myxomatosis and/or VHD?

Wild rabbits act as a major reservoir for these diseases. Your pet rabbit can become infected either by direct exposure to infected wild rabbits or more commonly from biting insects such as rabbit and cat fleas, midges or mosquitos. Viruses can also be spread by objects that infected rabbits have been exposed to. VHD can survive for months in the environment so even indoor rabbits are at risk.

For example, the hay and fresh food you feed your rabbit might have been harvested from land where wild rabbits grazed or you could bring the virus into your home via your car wheels, dogs paws, clothes or shoes.

 What are the signs of Myxomatosis and VHD?

Unfortunately, death is the most common outcome of both Myxomatosis and VHD.

 VHD causes massive internal bleeding. Affected rabbits are usually found dead sometimes with blood visible from the nostrils or body orifices. Owner often think the rabbit died of 'fright' or 'a heart attack.'

 Rabbits affected by Myxomatosis suffer a longer illness with conjunctivitis, swollen eyelids and genitals. Eventually they become blind and so debilitated they die of secondary pneumonia.

 How is Myxomatosis and/or VHD diagnosed?

Myxomatosis and VHD are often strongly suspected by clinical signs. Unfortunately, Myxomatosis and VHD are normally only diagnosed at post mortem exam

 What should I do if I think my rabbit might have contracted Myxomatosis / VHD Unfortunately there is no treatment for these diseases however some rabbits may survive if given intensive supportive care, so seeking immediate veterinary treatment is advisable.

 How can I protect my rabbit against Myxamotosis /VHD?

The good news is there is a very effective vaccine (Nobivac Myxo-RHD) against both diseases. Your rabbits can be protected with a single injection any time from 5 weeks of age with a booster vaccination every 12 months. (There is also a new vaccine available against the new variant of VHD (referred to as RHDV-2). Please see our other article for further information on RHDV-2.)

 Are Myxomotosis/ VHD a risk to humans?

There are no known cases of these viruses affecting humans.