Deadly Rabbit Virus Hits Thames Valley

25 October 2011, 06:00

An outbreak of the fatal rabbit virus myxomatosis, has been detected in Reading.

Vets are urging all families to make sure their rabbit's vaccinated.

Reading vet Jenny Towers has been speaking to Heart, and says, with more than a dozen cases in her practice already, it's the same warning signs as was seen before a mass outbreak 5 years ago.

"It started the same as this one, and ultimately we saw well over a hundred cases at this practice alone - and most of the rabbits did end up dying, so it can be a really big problem."

A flea or a mosquito bites a wild rabbit, that can be then transfered to household dogs or cats, and then onto a pet rabbit - so even if your bunny is a house rabbit, you should get your vaccinated to save the heartache of seeing your pet dying over several weeks from a painful virus.

What is myxoatosis?

Myxomatosis is a virus - and the first signs of infection are puffy, fluid filled swellings around the head or face.

Myxomatosis can be transmitted via fleas, flies that bite and direct contact with infected animals. Its symptoms include listlessness and anorexia as well as swelling of the rabbits’ heads, eyelids and genitals.
The PDSA say myxomatosis is preventable through vaccination and protecting pet rabbits from disease and suffering should be a priority. The organisation strongly advise owners to ask their vet about vaccinations, as well as how to minimise numbers of biting insects.

Rabbits are commonly kept pets, and protecting them from disease and suffering is as important as for other pets.
Rabbits have their own health and welfare needs so it is important that owners seek veterinary advice on routine health care, including vaccinations and regular check-ups.

Help from the PDSA

Myxomatosis is a viral infection affecting rabbits that, in acute cases, usually results in death.

The virus is spread by blood sucking insects, like fleas and mosquitoes. Even house rabbits are at risk as pets like cats can carry fleas indoors and the virus can remain alive in the flea’s blood for many months. 

General symptoms to look out for in the acute form of the disease include swellings around the eyes, the base of the ears and the genitals. The rabbit may eat as normal to start with, but will lose their appetite as the disease gets worse. 

There is no treatment for myxomatosis itself but in less severe cases the immune system, with the help of fluids and special diets, may be able to fight off the disease. If your rabbit develops pneumonia, caused by bacteria affecting the weakened rabbit’s lungs, your vet may also prescribe antibiotics.

The disease can be prevented through vaccinating your rabbit against myxomatosis and controlling fleas. 

It is important to discuss vaccinations and flea prevention with your vet as soon as you can, as well as contacting your vet if your rabbit shows any signs of the illness.