Thursday, February 16, 2012


RSPCA veterinarians in Broken Hill are warning rabbit owners to protect their pets against myxomatosis after a pet rabbit was euthanased this week due to contracting the deadly disease.

Myxomatosis is a highly contagious, incurable disease caused by the myxoma virus. The virus was originally introduced as a way to help manage wild rabbit populations. However, it can easily be caught by pet rabbits. Spread between rabbits is through close contact and via biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes. Currently, there is no vaccine available in Australia to help protect pet rabbits from contracting the virus.

Symptoms include red swelling of the eyelids, ears, feet and private parts, which progresses to discharge from the eyes. Rabbits usually die within 10 to 14 days of infection.

RSPCA NSW Veterinarian Dr Douglas Dixon-Hughes said myxomatosis is a terrible disease.

“We euthanased 10 rabbits at our Broken Hill Veterinary Hospital last year as a result of the disease,” said Dr Dixon-Hughes. “But with all the rain recently, we’re expecting an increase in the number of cases this year due to rising mosquito populations.”

Dr Dixon-Hughes advises rabbit owners to take preventive measures to help protect pet rabbits from contracting the virus.

“We encourage rabbit owners to cover rabbit hutches and enclosures with protective mosquito netting every evening and regularly check pets for symptoms,” said Dr Dixon-Hughes. “It’s also important to speak with your vet about safe mosquito and flea prevention, as some products can be toxic to rabbits."

If your rabbit contracts the virus you should seek immediate veterinary attention.

If a pet rabbit has been infected, thoroughly disinfect the rabbit’s hutch and any food and drink items. Due to its highly contagious nature, it is recommended to wait at least four months after a case of myxomatosis before introducing another rabbit into the environment.

RSPCA also recommends that all pet rabbits are vaccinated against the deadly Calicivirus.

Please speak to your vet for more information or visit RSPCA’s Knowledgebase:

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