Rabbit Diseases: Myxomatosis and Rabbit Plague

Myxomatosis, which belongs to the smallpox virus family, is one of the best-known and most dangerous viral diseases in rabbits and is also known as rabbit plague or rabbit disease. The disease is extremely contagious. Experience has shown that it takes three to nine days for the onset of myxomatosis. The virus originally comes from South America but is now also spread in Europe.

How Does the Rabbit Get Infected With Myxomatosis?

The long-ears are infected by insects (e.g. mosquitoes, flies, and fleas) or contaminated food. Since the incidence of insects is particularly high in warm and humid months, myxomatosis occurs more frequently at these times.

The virus can be transmitted from animal to animal within a group of rabbits, which is why a sick animal must be separated from its conspecifics immediately. Humans and other pets do not get sick themselves but can infect rabbits with the virus if, for example, they have come into contact with contaminated food or rabbits that are already sick. Rabbits living in the wild can also get sick, so in many areas, you shouldn’t collect fresh green fodder.

What are Typical Symptoms of Myxomatosis?

The first signs of myxomatosis are reddened or swollen eyes, difficulty breathing, and small pustular or nodular skin changes (edema). The mouth, nose, and ears can also swell, and the same applies to the anus and genital areas of the rabbit. Many owners initially believe that increased eye discharge is the first sign of conjunctivitis, but it can also indicate myxomatosis.

Diagnosis of Myxomatosis by the Veterinarian

If the rabbit has not been vaccinated against myxomatosis and shows the symptoms described above, these are usually sufficient for a diagnosis. In some cases, the vet can do additional tests, such as blood tests, to help diagnose the condition.

Course and Treatment of Myxomatosis

Sick animals are often, but not always successfully, treated with antibiotics. There is no special treatment for myxomatosis. With a mild course, the disease can heal completely, but this is rather rare. Severe courses of rabbit plague usually end with the death of the rabbit. If you suspect myxomatosis, you should therefore always consult a veterinarian.

How to Protect Your Rabbit From Myxomatosis

The best and only method to reliably protect your rabbit from dangerous myxomatosis is the six-monthly vaccination. If your rabbit is vaccinated against myxomatosis for the first time, a basic immunization must be carried out. After that, it is sufficient to refresh the vaccination every six months.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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