A viral disease introduced into Great Britain in the 1950’s, designed to cull the overpopulation of wild rabbits. Since then, there has been a constant low level of myxomatosis infection in the wild rabbit population, which has occasional periods of heavier outbreaks.

Myxomatosis is spread by biting insects, e.g. fleas and mosquito’s, so your rabbit can be infected even if it never directly meets another infected animal. Signs of the disease include swelling around the eyes, nose, anus and genitals, pus from the eyes and nose, lethargy, loss of appetite, and breathing difficulties. Unvaccinated rabbits will die from this disease.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

This disease is very new, and was first recognised in the UK in 1992. Transmission of the disease can be by direct or indirect contact. The virus is known to be very stable in the environment, and can stay infectious on clothing for several months. Signs seem to vary greatly, from a mild temperature and feeling slightly off colour to fever, lethargy, severe diarrhoea and breathing difficulties. However, the most common ‘sign’ is sudden death with no apparent signs of illness at all.

Vaccination against these diseases is essential. Recently it has become even easier to protect your pet rabbit against these diseases as we are now able to offer a combined VHD/Myxomatosis vaccination which is given only once yearly. It is recommended to start this at 6 weeks of age.

Encephalitozoon cuniculi

A small protozoan that is now known to be widespread in the UK rabbit population. The route of infection is orally via ingestion of urine contaminated by E. cuniculi spores. One month after infection, a rabbit will start to shed spores in its urine. Shedding of spores continues for up to three months and possibly on and off for life. When a rabbit is first infected, the parasite is absorbed from the intestines. Once inside the body, it heads off to other organs, especially the kidneys and brain, where it causes lesions called "granulomas.

A lot of infected rabbits go through life without having any problems from E.cuniculi but unlucky rabbits, especially older rabbits, may show neurological signs such as a head tilt or have kidney problems and weight loss.

We recommend a nine day course of Panacur paste for rabbits every 6 months to help prevent the infection. Should a rabbit be suspected of having this disease we would extend the duration of treatment to 28 days.

To help prevent infection with encephalitozoon, tapeworms and pinworms we recommend washing of greens before giving to your pet rabbit.

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