Myxomatosis. Please beware

Written by: Groomer Date of published: . Posted in Myxomatosis

Posted on 08 October 2012 22:51

Myxomatosis-A Warning    PLEASE READ.

Myxomatosis is caused by the myxoma virus, a type of pox virus that only affects rabbits. It was first discovered in 1896 in Uruguay and was imported to Australia in 1951 to control its large rabbit populations – initially having the desired devastating effect. The disease was illegally introduced to France in 1952 and it appeared in Britain the following year. It quickly spread to both wild and domestic rabbit populations and within a few years had spread throughout Europe. Myxomatosis has been a threat to wild and domestic rabbits ever since.

Who is at risk?

All rabbits, whether wild or domestic are at risk of myxomatosis.

How is it spread?

Myxomatosis is typically spread by blood sucking insects and in particular the rabbit flea, Spilopsyllus cuniculi. This flea is frequently found on wild rabbits and transmission in the absence of bites is unusual. All breeds of domestic rabbit can be affected, with little to suggest that one breed is more susceptible than another, and whatever the lifestyle of your rabbit there is a potential risk of this disease.

Signs and symptoms

The incubation period varies depending on the strain and its virulence and is typically at least five days. Accompanying the classic bulging eyes that most of us associate with myxomatosis, are localised swellings around the head, face, ears, lips, anus and genitalia. Severe swellings can lead to blindness and distortion around the face within a day or so of the onset of symptoms, leading to difficulty with feeding and drinking. Bacterial respiratory infection often complicates the disease resulting in a fatal pneumonia.
Myxomatosis can be a very protracted and profoundly unpleasant disease and euthanasia is generally recommended. Recovery in the wild occasionally occurs but for animals with severe signs death usually occurs about 12 days after initial infection.

Management of myxomatosis

There is no specific treatment for the virus and any treatment offered is merely supportive. Treatment is occasionally contemplated but would not usually be recommended for rabbits with the full-blown disease since affected individuals suffer dreadfully, have a low chance of survival and they remain a source of infection for other rabbits.
Control of myxomatosis
To help prevent your rabbit from contracting myxomatosis, it is important to put various controls in place, for which there are two main methods: control of parasites and vaccination.

Flea control

Always keep a regular check on pets for any signs of fleas. There is also evidence to suggest that mosquitoes and other biting flies may transmit myxomatosis in the UK.


A dual vaccination covering both myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) has recently been launched in the UK and is designed to replace the older myxomatosis-only product during 2012. This new vaccine provides efficient and effective protection of rabbits against both diseases

Vaccination schedule

It is recommended that a single dose of the new vaccine is given to all rabbits over the age of five weeks and requires an annual booster to maintain protection

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