Like every responsible pet owner, you want your bunnies to live a happy, healthy life, so you must have them vaccinated annually against Myxomatosis and two strains of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD).
Vaccination is the most important of a package of measures you should take to protect your rabbits. Rabbits can be vaccinated from five weeks of age. Boosters are needed every year with the new triple combination vaccine.
Myxomatosis Vaccination cannot guarantee absolute protection: vaccinated rabbits do occasionally catch Myxomatosis. However, in vaccinated rabbits, the disease is usually milder, sometimes just a single skin lesion, or a short, fairly minor illness. These infected rabbits need to be treated by a rabbit friendly vet who will report the infection to the vaccine manufacturers. Vaccinated rabbits with Myxi usually survive, whereas unvaccinated rabbits nearly always die.
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD)
There are two strains of RVHD, known as RVHD1 and RVHD2.
Vaccination is very effective. Your rabbits can currently be protected by injection anytime from five weeks of age, then a booster with the triple combination vaccine every 12 months. If your rabbit has never had a stand alone RVHD2 vaccine then the stand alone RVHD2 vaccine should be given as a one off the first time you vaccinate them. See above for more information.
What vaccines do my rabbits need?
With the introduction of a new triple vaccine in 2020 there has been some confusion over which vaccines rabbits should be given. The poster above provides the essential information and more technical detail is given below.
The RWAF has held meetings with each of the vaccine manufacturers and as a result have updated our advice. Detailed information, including drug names, which we are only legally allowed to give to veterinary professionals, is published in the ‘For Vets’ section of our website. If your vet still has any queries then please ask them to email us directly.
Essentially there are a number of different potential situations owners may find themselves in. In all of these, please discuss the exact circumstances with your vet, as the number and order of vaccines varies with the individual situation you are in, and its too complex to easily summarise here:
- New, young rabbit with no vaccines already given. The general advice here is to ensure this rabbit is vaccinated against all three diseases, RVHD1, RVHD2, and myxomatosis, as early as possible. However, as they may or may not have immunity handed down to them from the mother, which can interfere with the efficiency of a vaccine, you should definitely talk to your vet about the exact timing, and whether to give an additional stand alone RVHD vaccine.
- Newly acquired rabbit with an unknown history of disease and vaccination. Because any existing immunity to myxomatosis can interfere with the protection that a vector vaccine gives, its best to err on the side of caution and give an additional vaccine containing RVHD2 in a non-vectorised form. Vectorised refers to a type of vaccine which uses one disease as a carrier for protection against another, and describes the combination RVHD/myxomatosis vaccine. This is a very elegant and safe way of delivering protection, but in this subgroup of rabbits it can lead to less protection being given, hence the need for an extra vaccine which does not contain myxomatosis.
- Rabbit who has had, in the previous year, a vaccine against RVHD2 which is non vectorised, as well as a vectorised myxomatosis and RVHD1 vaccine. These rabbits should only need boosting, which can be carried out using a vaccine covering all three diseases in one injection. Note that if your rabbit fell into category 2 last year, and did NOT receive a stand alone RVHD2 vaccine, they should get that this year, to catch up, and should be protected against all three diseases from then on.
I’m thinking of having my rabbit vaccinated, but there’s no RVHD or Myxomatosis in the area. Is vaccination really necessary?
We would still recommend vaccination:
- It’s impossible to predict when and where diseases will strike.
- If you wait for a local outbreak of RVHD or Myxomatosis your rabbit might be the first to die.
- Many boarding establishments and insurance policies require rabbits to have up-to-date vaccinations.
My rabbit has chronic health problems. Can it still be vaccinated?
You need to discuss this with your vet. In general, vaccines should only be given to healthy animals, whose immune system can respond properly to the vaccine. However, if your rabbit’s condition is stable, it may be possible to vaccinate.
Can my rabbit be neutered and vaccinated at the same time?
Vaccinations are recommended as soon as possible after five weeks old. Vaccinations should not wait until the same time as neutering as that leaves a window of risk when the rabbits aren’t protected. Carrying out vaccinations at the same time as neutering also carries risks, both to the rabbit’s health and to the efficacy of the vaccine.
Do RVHD and Myxomatosis vaccinations have side effects?
Like all drugs, vaccines can have side effects, although problems in rabbits are very unusual. Skin reactions are sometimes reported at the site of injection (especially with some brands of older RVHD vaccine), and some rabbits are quiet for a day or two after vaccination. Although this is not desirable, it’s a whole lot better than death from a preventable disease.
If your rabbit has had Myxomatosis in the year leading up to vaccination this can affect how vaccines work, so consult your vet about your rabbit’s vaccinations.
Up to date advice on vaccinating against both strains of RVHD can be found on our RHVD page.
Can both vaccines be given together?
Good veterinary practice dictates that there should be a 2 week period between vaccinations.
None of the vaccines has been tested in combination so it’s unknown if full immune responses can be achieved if the vaccines are given together.
Vaccines should only be given to healthy pets and should not be given at the same time as any surgical procedure.