VET’S DIARY: Keep up-to-date with jabs for myxomatosis

A healthy rabbit.
A healthy rabbit.

Rabbits are much loved pets which don’t get a lot of coverage in this column. We talk regularly about cats, dogs, farm animals and horses but rarely does the humble rabbit get a mention, writes Paul Freeman.

But there are now estimated to be 1.7 million rabbits kept as pets in the UK, according to a recent PDSA survey, making it the third most popular pet after dogs.

However, this year has seen a marked increase in cases of myxomatosis and rabbit owners are being warned to ensure their pet’s vaccinations are up to date.

Myxomatosis is transmitted by insects, which carry the disease from the wild rabbit population to unprotected domestic pets. It is most commonly seen in the summer and autumn associated with increased activity of these insects, such as the rabbit flea and biting flies. Northumberland has this seen an increase in reported cases in wild rabbits, and more recently a small increase in domestic pets getting the disease.

So what is myxomatosis and what are the symptoms?

Myxomatosis was introduced to the UK in the 1950s as a control method to help reduce the wild rabbit population.

Estimates of the number of cases of myxomatosis in pet rabbits vary annually depending on the background prevalence but usually run into many thousands of cases, making it the commonest preventable infectious killer disease of pet animals in the United Kingdom. Signs of myxomatosis first appear within a fortnight of contracting the disease and include swelling of the skin and in particular of the face around the eyes, mouth and ears and also around the genitals.

Affected rabbits stop eating, with a high fever and lethargy.

They commonly develop respiratory disease and discharges from the eyes and mouth and, even with treatment, the disease will prove fatal in most cases.

As a practice we strive to offer continued, quality care for all animals, and our current promotions can help protect your rabbit against this often-fatal disease.

We have recently extended our Pet Health Scheme (PHS), which until recently was limited to dogs and cats. (for a regular monthly payment from £11 we can provide routine preventative health care for your cat or dog).

We have now extended the PHS to cover rabbits as well: for a regular monthly payment of £3.37 we offer a single vaccination of Nobivac Myxo-RHD which protects the rabbit against myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease, at a 10 per cent discount.

It will also cover the rabbit for six-monthly check-ups with a nurse or vet to check the rabbit’s teeth, ears, skin, and weight.

There will also be a discount on parasiticides for those rabbits that need it. Alternatively, you can also sign your rabbit up to our £99 LifeVacc Programme, which for a one-off fee of £99 will cover your rabbit’s vaccinations for the rest of its life.

More information and advice can be found online via www.alnorthumbriavets.co.uk, or just give us a call to book an appointment.