Myxomatosis & Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease

Did you know

At least 85-90% of the rabbit’s diet should consist of hay, grass and dried grass, as a guideline as much as the size of the rabbit’s body! They also need a small amount of nuggets – 20-25g per kg ideal bodyweight is all that is needed. You also need to make sure they have some green leafy salad as part of their diet and water should always be made available.


Myxomatosis is caused by a virus spread by fleas, mites and biting flies such as mosquitoes. In some circumstances it can also spread by direct contact between infected rabbits too. The first signs of infection are usually puffy swellings around the head and face. Within a day or so, these swellings can become so severe that they can cause blindness.

‘Sleepy eyes’ are another classic sign, along with swelling around the mouth and ears, which then spreads around the anus and genitals. A high fever occurs and eating and drinking becomes progressively more difficult. Death usually follows within around twelve days.

Recovery from this disease is rare and euthanasia is often necessary to prevent suffering. Occasionally a longer and more protracted disease course occurs with multiple skin modules. All types of rabbits can be affected, including house rabbits.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) also known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) is a very serious condition which causes a high fever, internal bleeding and liver disease. It is usually rapidly fatal and is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) and indirect contact, such as via insect transport or people, clothing, shoes and other objects. Regular flea and fly control measures and avoiding pet rabbits coming into contact with areas wild rabbits have been, can help to lower the risk of infection.

Both diseases are widespread and endemic in wild rabbits in the UK. Although myxomatosis is the most widely recognised in pet rabbits, cases of RHD are also reported sporadically in domestic rabbits. The devastating nature of these diseases means that vaccination against both diseases is recommended to protect pet rabbits. Although separate vaccines were needed in the past, dual protection against both diseases is now available from a single convenient annual vaccine. Ask your vet for further details.