Vaccinating your rabbits
Vaccinations are the best way to protect your rabbits from serious infectious diseases. Sadly, the diseases which these vaccinations protect against, are often not treatable. They can affect both indoor and outdoor rabbits, although outdoor rabbits are at higher risk. Different regions across the UK also have variations in risk levels too. Other factors for contracting these diseases include contact with wild or other domestic rabbits. The risks for your individual rabbits should be discussed with your vet to establish the most suitable vaccination programme for your rabbits.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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What do we vaccinate rabbits for?
We all know that ‘prevention is better than cure’. Your vet will examine your rabbits and give them a full health check prior to giving vaccinations. As with any vaccine, injections are aimed at minimising the clinical signs and mortality associated with relevant disease. Your rabbit’s chances of survival are significantly higher with vaccination, and appropriate use of vaccinations.
The main diseases that we vaccinate rabbits against are myxomatosis and rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RVHD). Unfortunately, both of these diseases are often fatal. Myxomatosis is also a life threatening disease. Rabbits very rarely recover from this disease. If an unvaccinated rabbit contracts myxomatosis, your vet may discuss euthanasia. The disease causes significant welfare problems; affected rabbits often deteriorate over one to two weeks, so euthanasia is often necessary to relieve suffering. There are two strains of RVHD. We currently recommend that you vaccinate your rabbit against both of them, as they often cause rapid onset of symptoms and death.
Myxomatosis and the RVHD1 vaccine
A combined vaccine (Nobivac Myxo-RHD) for myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease was introduced a few years ago. This vaccine only protects against one strain of RVHD - RVHD1. It involves a single subcutaneous injection under the skin on the back of the neck. It provides one year of immunity against myxomatosis and RVHD1. Rabbits can be vaccinated from 5 weeks of age. Immune protection starts 3 weeks after the date of vaccination. Therefore, we recommend that all rabbits are kept indoors with adequate fly and flea protection until three weeks after the vaccination is administered, so that they are fully protected.
RVHD1 and RVHD2 vaccines
Filavac is the only vaccine that provide protection against RVHD1 and RVHD2. However, it does not protect against myxomatosis. This vaccine can be given from 10 weeks of age. Protection starts one week after the date of vaccination and provides protection for one year.
Eravac is a vaccine which protects against RVHD2 only. The vaccination is given under the skin on the back of the neck and immune protection starts after 1 week. Though the immunity may last up to a year, in rabbits at high risk of contracting RVHD2, your vet may recommend boosters every 6 months. Eravac does not provide protection against RHDV1.
There should be at least a two week gap between giving the Nobivac Myxo-RHD vaccine and a RVHD vaccine. This is because the vaccines work in different ways. It is currently not known if they could interfere with each other and prevent the rabbit making a full immune response if given together. Most vets will advise leaving a two week gap between RHDV2 and Nobivac Myxo-RHD vaccination so the rabbit develops immunity from the first vaccine before it is given the second vaccine.
The Myxo-RHD and Filavac vaccinations together offer some duplicate protection for RVHD1, however, there is no evidence that this has any harmful effects, although technically it is not required. The benefit of protecting against both RVHD1 and RVHD2 outweigh any potential risks associated with the vaccine.
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