Why rabbits need vaccinating

Vaccinating your pet rabbits is now more important than ever due to the rapid spread of VHD2.

Rabbits require one annual vaccination which covers the three life-threatening rabbit diseases.  Previously, rabbits required two vaccinations. However, as of April 2020, a new vaccine called ‘Nobivac myxo-RHD plus’ has been developed. This vaccination requires one annual dose which offers full protection for 12 months within three weeks of the vaccine being administered. Rabbits from 7 weeks of age onwards can be vaccinated.


The most commonly known disease is myxomatosis, which is fatal. This disease is spread by fleas and mosquitoes, and both indoor and outdoor rabbits are at risk. Common signs include:

  • Swollen puffy eyes
  • Small lumps all over the ears and moving down the body
  • Noisy breathing
  • Sitting hunched and fluffed
  • Eyes shut with a glue-like appearance.

Sadly, once this disease has taken hold of a rabbit it is highly unlikely it will survive. However, it may go on to suffer for up to two weeks before death. Therefore, the kindest option is to consider euthanasia with support from your veterinary practice.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 & 2

The second disease is seen in two forms – these are known as RVHD – VHD2 (Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 & 2).

Initially, the UK only had cases of strain 1 for many years and these where far and few between. However, a new strain appeared in the UK around 2013, but it wasn’t until 2015 that it really took hold and is now one of the biggest killers in pet rabbits, and a large contributor in the decline in wild rabbits. VHD is a very difficult disease to predict, as it is almost invisible and shows little symptoms other than sudden death. VHD spores can be transferred from infected animals onto clothing, footwear, bedding etc, so it’s possible to be unknowingly in contact with it.

If your rabbit passes away suddenly with no obvious reason, it is recommended to agree to have a post-mortem carried out by your veterinary practice. Positive results can then be documented to aid the tracking of the virus’s movements.

Signs of VHD include:

  • Sudden death with no symptoms
  • Jaundice
  • Sudden collapse where death follows within hours
  • Projectile diarrhoea followed quickly by death
  • Loud scream followed by death

Preparing your rabbits for a vet visit

When preparing to take your rabbits to the vet, set up a travel carrier with some hay with their scent and fresh forage or vegetables to help them feel safe and relaxed. Ideally, choose a rabbit-savvy vet practice to ensure a smooth visit. If possible, take a small towel for the rabbits to sit on during the vaccination to help them feel more secure when sitting on the table. Once complete, take them straight home and back into their enclosure to settle back into their familiar surroundings.

Looking for more advice?

If you are concerned about your rabbits health, or have any other questions about your pet, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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