Myxomatosis is a virus that affects only rabbits. It is a disease that was introduced to Australia in 1950 as a way of controlling the feral rabbit population, and has since become a disease that on occasion affects domesticated rabbits.
In the wild, some rabbits have been seen to have built an immunity but this is not the case with pets. There is no resistance to the virus and the mortality rate is almost 100%.
With such a poor prognosis, treatment is not usually recommended.
The virus causes swelling and discharge from the eyes, nose and anogenital region of infected rabbits. Effects of the disease can be acute and death can occur within as early as 48 hours of transmission. Symptoms may not even be evident before death if a highly virulent strain is exchanged between infected animals or vectors (biting insects).
Transmission of the disease is via biting insects, commonly mosquitos or fleas, or by direct contact with another infected rabbit. It is not transmissible to humans.
When placing a pet rabbit outside, cages should be covered with a netting to prevent access by mosquitos.
If the rabbit has free range of the backyard, avoid early mornings and late afternoons when mosquitos are usually around in higher numbers.
Flea prevention can be used to help control of these biters. Revolution or advantage are over the counter products that are available for the use on rabbits. Check with your veterinary staff before applying these products to your pets.
If there has been a rabbit in the household with Myxomatosis, avoid getting another rabbit for a few months to allow the disease to be eradicated from the area. The disease is unable to survive in the environment for such a period of time without a host. Cleaning methods should include the use of a solution made with 10% bleach, ensuring to clean caging, bedding areas, food & water bowls, followed by thorough rinsing.
In other countries around the world, the vaccine for Myxomatosis has been used to help control the disease, but Australia has opted not to use it due to the fear of it allowing immunity into the wild population. Large numbers of feral rabbits in Australia have caused destruction to the environment so it is important to keep numbers under control.
With technology continuing to develop, in the future we hope for there to be a vaccine available to prevent Myxomatosis in domestic rabbits that will not cause concern of immunity to the wild population.
If you have concerns of your rabbit contracting the disease, please contact the clinic on (03) 54282805.