How to Prevent Your Rabbit From Getting Myxomatosis

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Bunnies are wonderful pets that can add a sense of liveliness and fun to your home.

However, just like any other pet, bunnies can fall victim to illnesses and get very sick. One of these illnesses is called myxomatosis, and can be fatal for your furry friend.

How can you prevent your bunny from catching myxomatosis?

There are plenty of ways that this disease can be avoided to keep your bunny happy and healthy. Here are just a few of the ways that you can help your bunny stay disease-free. 

What Is Myxomatosis?

Myxomatosis is a viral infection specific to rabbits. Also called “myxo” or “myxy”, the myxoma virus is a potentially fatal illness that is normally found in wild rabbits, but it can be transferred to pet rabbits as well.

While the virus used to typically infect rabbits only in the UK and Europe, it has since arrived in Australia as well. First introduced as a way to lessen wild rabbit populations in Australia, the myxoma virus has since spread and become a rapidly spreading infection among rabbits of all types.

While humans do not have to worry about this pox virus, as it has only been known to infect rabbits, it can wreak havoc on pet rabbits everywhere. 

What Causes the Disease?

The myxoma virus spreads via blood-sucking insects, much like malaria and similar diseases. Most often, the disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and fleas, though any biting insect has the potential of being a carrier. 

It’s also speculated that being in close proximity to an infected rabbit can spread the illness, though this has not been confirmed. It is also thought that a human touching an infected rabbit and moving on to another healthy rabbit or its food could potentially spread the illness.

Symptoms of Myxomatosis

The onset of symptoms caused by myxomatosis doesn’t usually occur immediately after infection; your bunny may experience the effects of the virus up to 21 days after the initial infection. Usually, symptoms will begin to appear about 14 days after the myxoma virus enters the rabbit.

Symptoms of the disease include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and inactivity
  • Discharge from the nose and/or eyes
  • Swelling of the face and/or eyes
  • Trouble breathing
  • Potential blindness caused by inflammation in the eyes
  • Coma/other neurological issues

Depending on the breed of your rabbit, it may have a slight immunity from the disease; if the illness presents itself as chronic, your bunny may develop nodules or lumps on the body. While this is unlikely with most domesticated rabbits, it is possible, and the bunny may become completely immune from the disease. 

Most rabbits will unfortunately experience the full brunt of these symptoms and will eventually die from the disease. 

If your bunny experiences any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to take them to a vet right away for a diagnosis.  

How to Prevent Myxomatosis

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent your bunny from coming into contact with the myxoma virus. Take these tips into consideration to keep your bunny safe and healthy!

Vaccinate Your Rabbit!

The best way to ensure your bunny’s safety against the virus is to vaccinate them regularly! There are currently two vaccines available against myxomatosis, and both will protect your rabbit.

While the vaccine may not be able to completely prevent infection from the virus, it will make your bunny’s survival chances higher. The vaccine can help your rabbit’s immunity and leave them with more mild symptoms.

While most vets in the UK and Europe are able to give the vaccine, it is not available in Australia. This is due to the general public not wanting the immunity spread to wild rabbit populations there. 

Of course, should you still find your rabbit developing symptoms, you should take them to a vet right away for assistance. 

Keep Them Away From Mosquitoes

It’s important to keep your outdoor rabbit free of mosquitoes, ticks, and other blood-sucking insects while outside. 

To keep your bunny safe while outside OR inside, be sure to use a mosquito net around your rabbit’s hutch. By limiting your rabbit’s contact with insects like these, you will lessen its chances of becoming infected.

Try to only let your bunny out for outdoor exercise in the afternoon; this is when mosquitoes are less likely to be in high numbers. 

Keep Your Home Clean and Pest Free

Along with keeping your home free of mosquitoes and ticks, you should also check for fleas around your home. As fleas are another potential carrier of the disease, keeping them out of your home is a good way to keep your bunny safe. 

There are plenty of methods to keep your home flea-free while not effecting your rabbit. Make sure to routinely do pest control and keep your bunny happy!

Perform Flea Checks Routinely

You should always check your rabbit to make sure he hasn’t gotten fleas either from you, house company, or other animals outside. Give your bunny regular flea treatments to keep them healthy.

Treatments should be performed every month for the safety of your rabbit. Talk with your vet about the right type of flea treatment for your bunny, and be sure to keep on top of the routine, whether your bunny goes outside or not! Fleas can always find their way inside, and it’s important to keep them away from your pet.

Keep Your Bunny Away From Other Rabbits

To keep your rabbit safe, it’s important to keep them away from other bunnies, particularly wild ones, as they can be carriers of the disease. While other domesticated bunnies may not appear sick, it’s possible that the virus has infected them but hasn’t presented symptoms yet, so it’s best to use caution.

If you have allowed your rabbit around other bunnies, it’s crucial to keep them quarantined for at least 14 days; this will show whether or not your bunny has been infected. If they do not show any symptoms within that time frame, it is unlikely that your rabbit has the virus.

It’s also important for you to take care of yourself as well.

If you believe that you may have come into contact with an infected rabbit, then you should be sure to clean yourself and your clothes before touching a healthy rabbit, its food, or anything in its habitat. You may unknowingly transfer the disease to your healthy bunny and risk getting it infected.

The myxoma virus is resistant to most forms of disinfectant, so be extra cautious when cleaning up. Use gloves or something similar when feeding your bunny or cleaning its hutch and habitat to make sure you don’t cause infection.

Quarantine Sick Rabbits

If you have any reason to suspect that one of your rabbits may be sick, it’s important to quarantine them IMMEDIATELY. Keep all of your rabbits separated from each other for at least 14 days to see if symptoms set in; this will keep any potentially infected rabbits from spreading the disease further, or from any insects attached to the infected animal to get onto any of the others.

Monitor their symptoms regularly, and make sure none of them are sharing food or toys. As above, you should also regularly check and clean yourself off so that you don’t transfer the disease or insects from one rabbit to another, either. 

Is There a Treatment for Myxomatosis?

Unfortunately, there is currently no known treatment or cure for myxomatosis. The only true way to ensure your bunny’s safety against the disease is by taking preventative measures and making sure that they are vaccinated and bug-free. 

While not all rabbits that get the myxoma virus will die, around 99% of domesticated rabbits do fall victim to the illness. Once your bunny hits 6 months old, it’s important to get them started on their regular vaccinations to keep them healthy. 

More often than not, a vet will end up recommending euthanasia for a rabbit infected by the myxoma virus, as there is not a high rate of survival. The best way to help your rabbit is to prevent the illness entirely.

Keep Your Bunny Happy and Healthy

With any luck, these helpful tips will keep your bunny protected against myxomatosis. Remember to keep blood-sucking insects away to keep your bunny safe, and vaccinate regularly to ensure they stay healthy!

Do you have any questions about caring for your rabbit’s health or happiness? Are you thinking of getting a new pet rabbit but aren’t sure how to take proper care of it?

We’d love to help! Be sure to contact us with any questions you might have about your furry friend.