Rabbit Diseases and Vaccinations

Diseases and Vaccinations

There are primarily two infectious rabbit diseases that require a vaccination, myxomatosis, and RHD (or VDH). Both of which are caused by viruses. There is no medication available and it is almost always fatal but resistance to these viruses can be built up with the use of vaccinations, causing rabbits to very rarely become ill.



The myxomatosis virus was spread intentionally in Australia in 1950 to fight the massive rabbit plague there. A few years later the same thing happened in France. From there, the virus has spread throughout Europe. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and fleas, The time between infection and disease is three to eight days. The first symptoms are swelling of the eyelids, around the nose, and ears and genitals. After that lumps form, so-called Myxomas, over the entire body and can lead to deformity of the mouth, eyes, and nose. The rabbit’s eyes stay closed due to severe eyelid inflammation. the rabbit will also very shortly after stop eating and due to bacterial infections the animal usually dies within two weeks.


Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease

RHD (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease), also known as VHD (Haemorrhagic Viral Disease), is caused by a virus. This virus was imported from Germany and a few years later it had spread throughout Europe. Without vaccination, the disease is always fatal.


The disease has three forms:

– The rabbit dies suddenly and unexpectedly.

– The rabbit stops eating; it becomes stuffy, poor coordination, Sometimes they have such severe pains that they start screaming. Often you see in the final stages frothy, bloody and death will follow soon after.

– The rabbit recovers and becomes immune for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, this rarely occurs.


Mortality can reach 75-100% of RHD infection. The virus is transmitted through saliva and by direct contact between two rabbits, but it is very persistent virus may also be spread by flies and birds.

Prevention is achieved by good hygiene and quarantine of newly acquired animals and vaccination of animals twice per year.


A rabbit is sick if it exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Sitting quietly in a corner
  • Hardly eating
  • dull coat
  • Bald spot or scabs
  • Itching
  • Leaning head
  • Dirty fur around the anus stool or urine
  • Wet chest due to drool
  • Heavy breathable or making a rattling sound
  • Thickness of the skin
  • Bloated abdomen

It is in these cases it is always advisable to contact your veterinarian.


Common Problems with Rabbits:



Rabbits can overheat. Direct sunlight, poor ventilation, high temperatures (28 and above), lack of fresh water, obesity and overcrowding can cause heating. Symptoms include rapid breathing, drooling, blue tongue, drowsiness and eventually death. Hold the animal gently in a bucket of cold water and see a vet.

Long teeth

Rabbits teeth continue to grow for the life of the animal. They wear down from the daily chewing of fibrous foods, such as straw, hay, forage and willow branches. Giving too many pellets and little roughage can cause problems. The injuries can cause blisters and long teeth; they animal with have difficulty eating and will sometimes drool.


Acute diarrhea is often caused when rapidly switching or too much fresh food such as vegetables and grass. Try to change the diet to hay and if diarrhea persists for a day (especially in the summer) and should consult a vet. Chronic diarrhea is usually caused by too many pellets, the stool becomes sticky (is sticking around the anus) and what smells sour. In young rabbits, a parasitic intestinal infection could be the cause and can be treated with medication.

Fly Maggots

In the summer you should be aware of flies around the rabbit. They like to lay eggs in damp places; this may be a wet coat due to diarrhea or a wound. The larvae that hatch from eggs then burrow into the skin and cause large, open wounds and sometimes it is necessary to put the animal out of its misery, but if you’re quick, treatment is possible. Check your daily so you can prevent wounds and diarrhea.


Most large bulges in the rabbit are abscesses. They are found around the mouth (tooth problems) and sometimes the feet (injuries or sole ulcers). The pus is usually so thick that the abscess break open, treatment by a veterinarian is necessary.

Itchy Skin and Ears

Rabbits can suffer from mites, lice, and fleas; the skin mite can cause hair loss and scaling, especially in the neck and on the back. You can see lice with the naked eye and the eggs to stick to the hair. The rabbit has its own breed of a flea but can also be attacked by cat fleas. Consultation with the veterinarian is required for a suitable treatment against all of these parasites.

Watery Eyes and Nose

Various viruses and bacteria can cause watery eyes and noses, but also drafts and dust can cause wetness, white eyes, and nasal discharge. Consult the veterinarian if the animal has been sick of the nasal discharge lasts longer than a few days

Gastric Dilation

This is an accumulation of gas and liquid in the large intestines of a rabbit. The animal does not eat, will sit quietly in a corner and does not produce feces and the stomach feels bloated and hard. It is important to seek veterinarian treatment as soon as possible as the animal can die quickly.


Rabbit’s urine is typically yellow in color but can be orange and even red. This is due to color pigments from the food supply and is normal unless there is evidence of urinary tract problems (blood flakes, presses on urine and so on).