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Myxomatosis

What is Myxomatosis?

Myxomatosis is disease that affects rabbits and was introduced into Australia in the 1950’s to control the large rabbit population. It is commonly transferred through mosquitoes and during the warmer weather the mosquito population is thriving and causing a rapid spread of the disease. Fleas can also spread the disease.

Over the years, wild rabbits developed a genetic resistance to the disease hence why the disease continues to flourish in our environment. Domesticated rabbits however have not developed this resistance. 

What are the signs and symptoms?

The initial signs of myxomatosis is conjunctivitis, or what’s known as ‘sleepy eye’. A rabbit’s eyes, mouth, nose and genital area become noticeably swollen and puffy. Their eyes will begin to display milky white discharge. Over the next few days the rabbit will become lethargic and completely blind. Within 3-21 days after being exposed to the virus the rabbit will no longer be able to breath properly and death will occur.  

Symptoms

  • Milky discharge from eyes
  • Swollen eyes, ears, mouth, nose and genital areas
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Breathing difficulties

What do I do if my pet rabbit shows signs of myxomatosis?

Make sure you seek veterinary advice as soon as possible. If you have any other pet rabbits, make sure you separate them immediately.

How can I prevent my rabbit catching myxomatosis?

  • Protect your rabbit enclosure

Keep your rabbit in an enclosure with mosquito netting is important. Other insect surface sprays can help, but make sure you do not put your rabbit into direct contact with these chemicals.

  • Use Flea prevention

Treat your rabbit with regular flea prevention to eliminate the transmission of the virus from fleas. Make sure you ask your veterinarian about the best product to use. There are no specific rabbit preventatives on the market however your Veterinarian can give you specific instructions on how to use cat and dog products that are registered to use for rabbits. 

Will my rabbit survive myxomatosis?

Unfortunately, the virus has a high mortality rate and it is recommended that your rabbit be humanly euthanised as soon as possible to prevent any ongoing suffering. There is no effective treatment for managing the symptoms of myxomatosis.

Can I vaccinate my rabbit against myxomatosis?

There is no vaccination in Australia against the myxomatosis. Currently, the UK and Europe do have the vaccination available. The fear of introducing a vaccination into Australia is that wild rabbits will become completely immune to the virus.

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