This is part 2, of our 2 part viral disease series, you can find part one here:
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So part 2 focuses on the infamous Myxomatosis virus, Myxomatosis is a deadly rabbit pox virus that was released to control wild rabbit populations in Australia in the 1950’s. Though over the years myxomatosis has become less effective in wild rabbits, it is still deadly for your pet rabbit.
Myxomatosis does not draw lines between wild and domestic pet rabbits, so its important to be aware of how to protect your bunnies.
Prevention is very similar to calicivirus, with one major exception, there is no vaccination for Myxomatosis available in Australia. There are vaccinations overseas, just not in Australia, as it is deemed illegal by the Australian government. So we will work with what we have.
Clinical Signs and Transmission
What clinical signs do you see with Myxomatosis?
Common clinical signs include; swelling of the face, limbs and genitals, conjunctivitis, ocular and nasal discharge, and pyrexia. If unlucky enough to be affected, infected rabbits can die within 10-14 days.
Myxomatosis is very contagious, and is transmitted by contact with infected rabbits, or indirectly by contact with infected secretions, urine, faeces and materials (fomites). Myxomatosis can also be spread by insects, including mosquitoes, flies and fleas.
There is no treatment for myxomatosis, 96-100% mortality occurs in infected rabbits, the only treatment is supportive care with a healthy mix of hope. In Australia, vaccination of pet rabbits is illegal. So prevent your rabbits from meeting wild rabbits!
Our other main method of prevention is via reducing exposure of our rabbits to myxomatosis.
We can achieve this by:
1. Reducing exposure to wild rabbits
2. Reducing fomite spread of the virus by washing your hands thoroughly prior to handling your rabbits
3. Mosquito and fly proofing hutches
So first, your pet rabbits probably dont spend too much time with wild rabbits. It is however worthwhile checking your yard for holes in your fences, and burrows. Additionally you can further reduce risk by not feeding your rabbits fresh grass.
Secondly, you can reduce the spread of the virus via fomites by thoroughly washing your hands prior to handling your rabbits. If you are very suspicious you have handled infectious rabbits or materials, then you should wash your hands in 10% bleach, or 10% trigene mixed with water. Any new equipment or toys for your bunnies should also be cleaned using these mixtures. if you are introducing a new rabbit into the house/hutch, it may be worth quarantining the new bunny for up to one month prior to introducing them to your new rabbits.
The third way to minimize exposure is to insect proof your rabbit enclosure! This can be achieved with mosquito / fly netting or fine mesh. Additionally if your rabbits play outside, minimize the time spent outside during dawn and dusk, as this is when mosquitoes are most active.
Fleas are also biting insects that can carry myxomatosis, so if you notice fleas on your rabbit, you can use a suitable veterinary approved flea prevention treatment. Revolution and advantage are good on label options here, you can find the doses here:
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Hope you enjoyed this two part series!
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RSPCA. Myxomatosis. http://www.rspcavic.org/health-and-behaviour/rabbits/myxomatosis
Victoria State Government. Myxomatosis in Pet Rabbits. http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/pets/other-pets/rabbits/myxomatosis-in-pet-rabbits
AVA. Myxomatosis in domestic rabbits in Australia. https://www.ava.com.au/11018