Animal Care bvba - Vets small and large domestic animals

Just like cats and dogs, rabbits also need their vaccines: the guarantee against infection by certain (mortal) diseases. In this case it primarily regards the typical rabbit disease, myxomatosis, and the more recent (and less known) illness, viral haemorrhagic enteritis (= bloody gastroenteritis).

These 2 disorders are caused by viruses and once the rabbit has been infected, the illnesses are normally fatal. Luckily there are very effective vaccines to protect the animals against these.


Originally, the disease only occurred in South America. In 1898 the virus was isolated for the first time. In 1950 the virus was intentionally imported in Australia in order to bank the enormous overpopulation of rabbits. In Europe also the virus was intentionally imported (1952) to eradicate rabbits in certain areas. Unfortunately, the virus is very contagious, causing the disease to spread very rapidly and thus infect and kill rabbits, which in fact should not be eradicated at all. Luckily rabbits are appearing that are immune to the disease: the natural defence is genetic, causing the number of resistant rabbits to grow slowly but steadily.

Many people think their rabbit cannot get myxomatosis because it is not in contact with other rabbits. This is a big misconception. The disease is namely transmitted by mosquitoes, flies, fleas and ticks, and those little animals appear everywhere!

Summer, when these skin parasites are most abundant, is the most dangerous period for myxomatosis. Consequently, the best period for a vaccination is May - June. Unless they are pregnant, all rabbits above 6 weeks can be safely vaccinated. The vaccination consists of a simple injection under the rabbit´s skin and needs to be repeated yearly.

And prevention is better than the cure, because there is other medicine than putting the poor little animal out of pain by euthanasia. After all, myxomatosis is a very painful disease. After an incubation of 3 to 5 days the rabbit starts suffering from inflammations under the skin (bulges): first at the eyes and the rest of the head. The eyes get shut, crusts appear on the nose, and lumps in the ears. The rabbit sneezes and coughs. The head swells, which is very painful, and prevents the animal from eating or drinking. Death occurs after a few days. We would like to add that myxomatosis only occurs in rabbits and that is not contagious to other animal species or humans.

Haemorrhagic enteritis

This viral disease is rather recent and came to our region from Spain. The disease is inexorable and contagious. The virus irrevocably destroys the mucous membranes of the rabbit´s intestines, causing the animal to suffer from bloody diarrhoea and bringing about a sudden death. Sometimes, the disease can evolve so fast the owner does not even notice the symptoms and finds the rabbit lying dead in its hutch.

A cure is not possible, also because of the very fast evolution of the disease. Therefore we repeat the slogan: prevention is better than the cure! Prevention consists of having the animal vaccinated. Again, this is done by a subcutaneous injection. In dangerous areas rabbits are best vaccinated every 6 months; in other cases a yearly repetition is sufficient.