Do Rabbits Need Vaccines? (What You Should Know)

One of the common questions asked by most rabbit owners is whether rabbits need to be vaccinated.

In general, there is no need for vaccination in the case of rabbits. But, if you live in Europe or Australia, then you need to vaccinate your rabbit. It is because diseases like Myxomatosis and Haemorrhagic are prevalent in these locations and spread quickly amongst rabbits. Another thing is, these vaccines may be essential in Europe and Australia but are illegal in the United States.

So, let’s discuss why these particular vaccines are legal in Europe and Australia and illegal in the United States.

Why Rabbit Vaccines Are Legal In Europe And Australia And Not In US?

It is essential to vaccinate your rabbit in Europe and Australia because diseases like Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD) and Myxomatosis disease are very common in wild rabbits there and spread quickly too.

There was a time when the population of rabbits was growing at a high pace in France and Australia. To keep their population in control, Myxomatosis disease was introduced in rabbits there.

The diseases which we are talking about are highly contagious in nature. It is, therefore, mandatory to vaccinate all domestic rabbits. A rabbit can get affected by these diseases if it is in direct contact with a wild rabbit or any infected domestic rabbit, even for a short period. Not only this, but your rabbit can get infected by mosquito bites too.

If we talk about the United States, then there was an outbreak of Myxomatosis and RVHD2 diseases in the southwest region. But, no vaccine was approved as there was not much need for it. Additionally, as of yet, there is no approval given for any type of rabbit vaccines by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Center for Veterinary Biologics. Even, it is not legal to import any rabbit vaccines from Europe and Australia to the US as the vaccine is live and not a killed one.

The Myxomatosis and RVHD2 diseases in Europe and Australia are of a different strain than the ones spread in the United States. Hence, it makes no sense to import vaccines from Europe and Australia as it will not protect the rabbits against the strain found in the United States.

In the year 2020, there was a spread of these diseases in the following areas: Utah, Montana, Texas, California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico.  So, if you reside in one of these localities, contact a veterinarian. Then, get details regarding any cases of the said diseases in your area. If there are any cases, then you are may be eligible for the vaccines.

If there is a need to import the vaccines, then the USDA accredited vet will document the cases of Myxomatosis or RVHD2. After that, the vet will report it to the State veterinarian in order to receive the vaccines.

For Which Diseases Rabbits Are Being Vaccinated?

There are mainly two to three diseases for which rabbits are being vaccinated. If any of these diseases infect your rabbit, it will be next to impossible to cure it because there is no prescribed treatment yet.

Myxomatosis

It is a lethal virus that is contagious in nature. It can be transmitted if your rabbit comes in direct contact with an already infected animal. It can also be spread through blood-sucking animals. The thing to be concerned about here is that there is no treatment to cure this disease yet. In most cases, it is highly fatal for rabbits, and recovery from it is sporadic. It takes around 14 days to see its signs clearly, and once infected, it is really difficult to recover from it.  The primary symptoms of this disease are:

  • High fever.
  • Swollen eyes, ears, and face.
  • Swelling around the genitals as well as anus.
  • Struggling while eating food and drinking.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD)

Just like Myxomatosis, due to the increasing population of wild rabbits in Europe, this disease was introduced amongst them. A hike can also be seen in RVHD disease-infected rabbit cases in the United States. But, there is a difference in the strain of Europe and the United States. Therefore, the European vaccine will not help protect the rabbits in US and there is no legal vaccine to fight RVHD in the US.

It is also a contagious disease that can be spread through blood-sucking insects as well as other infected rabbits. It is a hazardous disease for rabbits, and currently, there is no treatment for it. So, if you live in Europe, it is essential for you to vaccinate your rabbit.

Its common symptoms are:

  • High fever.
  • Struggle in breathing.
  • Bleeding from nose, mouth, or rectum.
  • Lethargy.
  • Jaundice
  • Decrease in normal appetite.
  • Seizures.
  • Sudden death.

The main thing to worry about is that sometimes rabbits don’t even show any symptoms and die suddenly. On running diagnostics to determine the cause of death, it comes out to be RVHD. In usual cases of RVHD, you will notice bleeding from the nose and mouth of rabbits.

Not much information and details are known regarding this disease. But, be assured that little rabbits under the age of 6 weeks cannot be affected by this disease. So, your little bunny is safe, and you can vaccinate it in due time.

Note that mostly older rabbits get infected. Hence, it is necessary that you vaccinate your old rabbits in time.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2)

This disease was first detected in France. After that, the disease spread at a high pace and replaced the first RVHD. Currently, this strain of RVHD is prevalent in Europe and Australia.

The symptoms of RVHD2 are similar to that of RVHD. However, there are majorly two differences. The first one is that RVHD2 can cause sudden death. In most cases, it doesn’t show any signs of infection and causes the rabbits’ sudden death. The disease infects the rabbits in such a fatal way that it starts killing all the liver or/and spleen tissues. This virus spreads in the body of the host quickly and shows no signs or symptoms.

The second difference is that it affects not only the older rabbits but also the young ones too. So, no rabbit is safe from RVHD2, and hence, it calls for the need for vaccination as soon as possible. The young rabbits can get vaccination after they are 5 weeks old.

A few cases have shown recovery, but for most of the cases, this disease has proven to be highly fatal. Therefore, it is mandatory for all rabbit owners located in Europe to get their domestic rabbits vaccinated for RVHD2.

Treatment

As currently, there is no prescribed treatment to cure any of these diseases; there is nothing much you can do about it. The best option you have is to contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any or all of the symptoms discussed. Then, the vet will diagnose your rabbit and direct you to the best possible solution.

Keep a note that you should never take your infected rabbit to a clinic unless directed by the vet himself. We know that all of these diseases are highly contagious.  So, if you take your infected rabbit to a clinic, and there are other rabbits present in the clinic, they will also get infected.

From your side, the best thing you can do is to isolate your rabbit and provide him maximum support and care. It is necessary to isolate your infected rabbit to ensure that the disease doesn’t spread to other rabbits.

It is a difficult time for your rabbit, so make sure to give it loads of love and care. Also, ensure removing any kind of stress-inducing factors like loud noise or intrusive pets. A rabbit is a sensitive animal that can easily become stressed. So, it will be good if you create an environment for your little bunny, which is stress-free and comfortable.

Even if your rabbit dies, don’t forget to contact your vet to determine the reason behind its death. It is necessary to find out the cause of death, as the number of cases of these diseases is on the increase in Europe, Australia, and the US. It will help to note which disease is spreading throughout the country and whether there is a need to develop new vaccines to control the situation.

How Often Should Your Rabbit Need To Be Vaccinated?

Rabbits are eligible for vaccination once their age is more than 5 weeks. But remember, once your rabbit is vaccinated doesn’t mean that one-time vaccination is enough for its whole lifetime. For continuous protection from diseases like Myxomatosis, RVHD, and RVHD2, you need to get your rabbit vaccinated every year. However, the same vaccine is used for RVHD and RVHD2, so there will be fewer shots.

The ideal time for vaccination is considered to be spring. It is because these diseases come back in the season of summer and autumn. Hence, it makes sense to get your rabbit the vaccination shot before the diseases make their appearance. But, it does not mean that you cannot get your rabbit vaccinated any other time of the year. You can get your little bunny vaccinated whenever you want, but remember to vaccinate it every year.

Protection Against The Diseases

There are a number of things that you can do for protecting your bunny against these contagious diseases. The good thing is, most of these remedies don’t require much change.

  • Keep your rabbit inside the house. It will limit its contact with blood-sucking insects and other wild rabbits, which are the main cause of the spread of infection.
  • Wash your hands before touching the rabbit. If you have been to a pet store or any other place where you were in contact with rabbits or other animals, it is wise to wash your hands before playing with your rabbit to avoid the spread of any infection.
  • Check from where your hay is coming. Don’t get hay from an area where there is an outbreak. Any contact with the dirty, infected hay can spread the virus.
  • Restrict much contact with other rabbits. If you live in an area where there has been an outbreak, don’t allow your rabbit to come in contact with other rabbits. Even though your rabbit likes to have the company of other rabbits, you cannot risk its life because of it as these diseases are contagious.
  • Learn grooming your rabbit at home. Please learn how to trim the hair as well as nails of your rabbit. This will eliminate the need for you to take your bunny to a clinic for grooming where he can get infected.
  • Avoid feeding your rabbit any outside food. It even includes the grass, plants, and vegetables growing in your garden. It is because these things may have disease on them, if you are living in an outbreak area, which can be transmitted to your rabbit.
  • Wash your rabbit’s greens before you feed them. Firstly, you should verify that the place from where your rabbit’s greens and veggies are coming is safe or not. After that, wash all of these things thoroughly before feeding them to your bunny.
  • Disinfect the things your rabbit usually comes in contact with. It includes the toys that your rabbit plays with and even your shoes which you wear outside the house. Make use of a rabbit-safe disinfectant.
  • Quarantine any new rabbit for at least 2 weeks. This will prevent the spread of any dormant disease to other rabbits.
  • On finding a dead rabbit, immediately notify wildlife officials. Avoid touching any dead rabbit and let officials examine it to verify the reason for its death. It could be possible that the rabbit died because of one of the above-discussed diseases.
  • Treat your rabbit for fleas on a monthly basis. It will ensure additional safety from any kind of disease.