Dr Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS.
Bunnies can be affectionate, intelligent and full of character! Naturally, you want the best for your bunny, whether they’ve just joined your family or they’ve been with you a while.
Vaccinations are an essential part of caring for your rabbit, so here’s what you need to know about rabbit vaccinations.
Why do rabbits need to be vaccinated?
Rabbits need to be vaccinated to help keep them healthy and with you for as long as possible! Vaccines protect them against three serious diseases. There are no reliable treatments for these diseases, and so they are usually fatal. Luckily, we can prevent them with vaccinations!
Your vet will also give your bunny a full health check at the vaccine appointment, meaning any problems are more likely to be detected early on.
Does my indoor rabbit need vaccinations?
Even indoor rabbits need to be vaccinated since these diseases can be spread by insects and on surfaces such as shoes. Your rabbit does not need to be in contact with other rabbits to contract these diseases.
What vaccinations do rabbits need?
Rabbits need to be vaccinated against three potentially deadly diseases. In the past, this involved two separate injections. There is now a 3-in-1 vaccine available, meaning your bunny would only need one injection each time.
Rabbits need to be vaccinated against:
Myxomatosis is caused by a virus which can affect all rabbits, both wild and pet. It is spread through contact with infected rabbits, and via biting insects such as mosquitos or fleas.
It is a very aggressive virus, which affects many parts of the body. Probably the most well-known and obvious symptom is swelling around the genitals and face, especially the eyes. Other symptoms include runny eyes and nose, fever, lethargy (sleepiness), skin lumps or scabs, eating and drinking less (or not at all) and breathing problems.
Myxomatosis is most common from August-November, so late summer through to Autumn and early winter. It can occur at other times though!
Unfortunately, there is no cure so myxomatosis is usually fatal, even with supportive treatment. Vaccination is the best way to protect your rabbit against this heart-breaking disease.
It’s important to note that vaccinated rabbits can still catch myxomatosis, but it is generally much milder, meaning vaccinated rabbits usually survive.
- Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD-2)
RVHD-2 is caused by a variant of the same virus as RVHD-1 and was first found to be in the U.K. relatively recently, in 2013. RVHD-2 is very similar to RVHD-1, except the symptoms tend to develop more slowly over a week or two. While rabbits are more likely to recover from RVHD-2 than RVHD-1, unfortunately, the outcome is often the same and rabbits still die from this nasty disease.
When should bunnies be vaccinated?
The timing of vaccinations will depend on the vaccine(s) being used. If your rabbit has had vaccines in the past, but not recently, then it’s important that you give your vet a call to make sure they are fully protected against all 3 diseases. Vaccines need to be given every 6-12 months to be effective.
If your rabbit had the combined vaccine protecting against Myxomatosis and RVHD-1, this can be given from 5 weeks old. A booster will need to be given every 6-12 months. Your rabbit will also need a separate injection to protect against RVHD-2, which can be given from 10 weeks of age.
If your rabbit has the 3-in-1 combined vaccine, they can have this from 5 weeks old. Your bunny will need a booster injection every year to stay protected.
Your vet will be able to advise you on the best vaccination protocol for your rabbit, as it will partly depend on what vaccines they have had in the past.
Are there any side effects?
All medications and vaccinations can cause side effects. Luckily, side effects of the rabbit vaccines are not common and are usually short-lived (24-48 hours). Possible side effects include lethargy, lack of appetite and slight swelling where the injection was given. If you are concerned that your rabbit is experiencing a side effect, then you should call your vet practice straight away.
Vaccinations are an important part of caring for your bunny, whether they are indoor or outdoor rabbits. Vaccinations protect against 3 very serious, potentially deadly viral diseases. If you aren’t sure whether your rabbit is up to date with their vaccines, give your vet a call and double-check. Better to be safe than sorry!