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15 May 2024

Vaccinations in rabbits

Rabbits need vaccinating to protect them from harmful diseases. The main diseases that rabbits need protecting from are Myxomatosis and Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD). There are two strains of R(V)HD in the UK, R(V)HD-1 and R(V)HD-2. Prevention is the best form of protection with these diseases, so vaccinations are vital for your rabbits health. 

Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease 

R(V)HD is a serious and infectious form of viral hepatitis in rabbits that damages internal organs, namely the liver and intestines, and causes internal bleeding which is usually fatal. The incubation period for this disease is very short and has an extremely high mortality rate, of over 90%. 

This disease is highly contagious, spreading from rabbit to rabbit by direct contact through bodily fluids or inhalation. It is also able to remain in the environment for a long period of time, therefore protecting your rabbit from contracting this disease is vital. Symptoms of this disease normally result in a loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, spasms and death. 

Vaccination against these two strains is the only way to ensure that your rabbit is safe from contracting this disease from other rabbits, both domestic and wild, or from the surrounding environment. 


Myxomatosis is a highly contagious viral disease in rabbits, that is usually fatal, and can be seen in both wild and domestic rabbits. The disease is spread by biting insects such as fleas, mites, and mosquitoes. This means ensuring good control of external parasites will help to control the spread of the disease. Direct contact with infected rabbits or hutches or inhalation can also be a route of infection. 

Rabbits suffering from the disease will have a sleepy puffy appearance with swelling around the face, especially eyes, lip and ears with a thick pussy ocular discharge. They may also get swelling around the anogenital area and develop subcutaneous skin nodules. It causes inflammation to the eyes and  blindness. The animals have a loss of appetite and will often starve to death. They will also be lethargic and often develop respiratory problems and will eventually affect the internal organs resulting in a possible long and painful death. There is no cure for myxomatosis only supportive care can be given, such as antibiotics to prevent secondary infection, so prevention is always the key. 

Vaccination is the only way to protect your pet rabbit against myxomatosis. It is widespread around the UK with peak infection times in summer and autumn , this should be done at least annually but in some high-risk areas of the UK repeat vaccines are recommended every six months. 

For more information about vaccinating you rabbits please call us at Langford vets to arrange an appointment. Our vets will be more than happy to give them a full health check at the same time to ensure your pet is in perfect condition. 

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