Myxomatosis is caused by the pox virus. There are two presentations of the disease. The acute form which mainly affects rabbits that have not been vaccinated and the Chronic (nodular) form. The first signs of infection are puffy, fluid filled swellings around the head and head and face. "Sleepy eyes" are another classic sign, along with swollen lips, tiny swellings on the inside of the ear and puffy swellings around the anus and the genitals. Within a day or so, these swellings can become so severe that they can cause blindness. Eating and drinking becomes progressively more difficult and death usually follows within 12 days. If an un-vaccinated rabbit contracts Myxomatosis it is best euthanised as there is little hope of recovery.
All breeds of rabbit can be affected including house rabbits. The disease was introduced into this country to keep the wild population of rabbits down. The disease continues to be common and widespread throughout the UK.
The disease is spread by blood sucking insects. But in Great Britain the main vector is the flea. Rabbits kept outside are most at risk, house rabbits are also at risk because of other domestic pets. Cats especially can carry the fleas indoors. Myxomatosis can also be spread by direct contact. The incubation period for the disease is 5 - 14 days
The disease can be controlled by two methods:- Vaccination or Insect Control.
Vaccination costs approximately £22. Rabbits can be vaccinated from 6 weeks old and boosters should be given annually. Although it is the best form of protection no vaccine can ever be 100% effective.
Insect control. Flea control is important, not only for the rabbit, but also for the other animals that share the rabbits home. Dogs, cats etc. Mosquitos must also be controlled, by the use of mosquito netting on shed doors, and by the use of insect repellent strips. Rabbits kept outdoors should never have their runs placed in damp areas or near water sources, as these are areas of dense mosquito populations.
VHD is caused by a Calcivirus. The virus replicates within the hepatocytes of the liver causing hepatic necrosis. The damaged hepatocytes release tissue thromboplastins which initiate disseminated intravascular coagulation, which is responsible for the haemorrhages seen in other organs, notably the lungs and kidneys. The virus is present in the saliva and nasal secretions of affected rabbits. It can be spread by direct and indirect contact. Mechanical transmission may be via insects, birds, rodents, people and their clothing, and contaminated feed and water equipment. Studies have shown that the virus can live on clothing for at least 3 months!!
Vaccination is the best control measure. It is given to rabbits at about 10-12 weeks old. The vaccination costs approximately £22. Booster vaccinations should be given annually.