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.