There are two disease for which vaccination is available in rabbits, myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease.
Since it entered the UK, this disease has killed millions of rabbits and still continues to do so. It causes a disease in which there are swellings around the head and genitals associated with a high fever and discharge from the eyes and nose. It is fatal in 98% of cases, although this may take a couple of weeks.
Myxomatosis is spread by biting insects. The rabbit flea is involved, but there is strong evidence a species of biting fly, possibly a mosquito, can also spread it. Consequently, your rabbit does not need to be anywhere near a wild rabbit to catch the disease and even house rabbits are not safe.
We recommend all pet rabbits be vaccinated against this disease. Vaccination is a single injection given from 6 weeks of age. Regular booster vaccinations are recommended every 6 months.
Many vets used to recommend annual vaccination in the spring, as most cases occur during the summer and autumn, but in the last epidemic cases continued into December and January and rabbits vaccinated more than 6 months ago were among the victims.
Viral Haemorrhagic Disease
This rapidly fatal viral disease caused devastation amongst rabbit populations across Asia and Europe before entering the UK in the early '90s. It is spread by biting insects and causes death with 24-48 hours, often with blood from the nostrils.
The UK has not seen a VHD epidemic on the scale expected, but the virus is definitely here. It is suspected there may be a native virus with some cross-protection, but this is not proven. We do not see many cases of this disease although it has been reported in the area.
For complete peace of mind for your rabbit, vaccination is a single injection from 12 weeks of age with annual booster recommended. This vaccination is not licensed to be given at the same time as the myxomatosis vaccination, so a 2-week interval is recommended between the two.