There are two diseases that we vaccinate rabbits for here in the UK. The first is myxomatosis and the second is Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD, or also known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease, RHD). Both diseases are fatal to rabbits and can affect both indoor and outdoor rabbits.

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Rabbits infected with VHD can die within 2 days of infection and often show no outward signs of illness. Many times owners just find the rabbit has died suddenly and suspect has died from fright, heart attack or heatstroke. VHD causes internal bleeding, and sometimes blood is seen from the nose and back end. The virus is spread by direct contact with an infected rabbit or indirect contact with infected urine or faeces and can also be carried on the feet and droppings of birds and insects. It can also be passed on by feeding hay and grass that has come into contact with the virus. Humans can carry the virus on hands and shoes when walking through an area of contaminated land and so bring the virus into the home and thus infect a house rabbit that has no outside access itself.

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Fleas and mosquitos are the main source of infection by biting a rabbit that has been infected with myxomatosis, then moving on to another rabbit. It can also be passed on by direct contact with an infected rabbit. All rabbits can be at risk of infection, but outdoor rabbits, especially those living near a wild rabbit population, are more at risk than indoor rabbits. The first signs of myxomatosis are severe conjunctivitis, leading to swellings on the head and genitals, blindness, weakness and eventually death. An infected rabbit is unlikely to survive, even with intensive supportive treatment.

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The best way to prevent your rabbits from both of these diseases is by annual vaccination. There is now a licenced combined vaccine called Nobivac Myxo RHD that can be given to rabbits from as young as 5 weeks of age and repeated annually for continued protection against both diseases. Speak to your own vet  to check if your rabbit is protected.