What is myxomatosis?
Myxomatosis is a nasty, highly contagious viral disease which is endemic in the wild rabbit population in the UK. The disease is often fatal and it is spread by blood-sucking insects, such as fleas and mosquitoes, and by contact with infected rabbits. Pets kept outside are at higher risk from the disease due to their close proximity to wild rabbits and biting insects. Other high risk areas include those near standing water or with a large mosquito population.
Symptoms of myxomatosis include swellings around the eyes, face, ears, lips and anus; these swellings can lead to blindness and distortion around the face.
What causes myxomatosis?
The disease is caused by the myxoma virus which is carried by blood-sucking insects such as fleas and mosquitoes, however direct rabbit-to-rabbit transmission can occur.
There is no specific treatment for rabbits with myxomatosis and if pets develop the full-blown disease it is often fatal. Therefore, it’s advisable to vaccinate rabbits against the disease.
Vaccination against myxomatosis is the only proven method of preventing the disease. If there is an outbreak of myxomatosis in your area, keep wild rabbits away from your pet and attach an insect screen to an outside hutch to keep it safe from insects throughout the summer months. Insecticidal treatments, such as shampoos and repellents, may also help control fleas and mosquitoes.