Myxomatosis has been present in the UK since it was introduced from South America in the 1950s. It killed a very high percentage of the wild rabbits, and still kills many wild and pet rabbits every year.
The full-blown form of myxomatosis affects the eyelids, the skin of the ears, lips and genitals causing swellings.
There is a purely skin form of myxomatosis, which isn’t usually fatal, it causes small thickened lumps of skin to form on the eyelids, nose, head and sometimes the shoulders. These typically fall away after 2-3 weeks.
Myxomatosis is mainly spread by direct contact by fleas. Rabbits fleas are the most common carriers but flying and biting insects can spread it. Rabbits can also catch the disease through direct contact with other rabbits.
Your vet can vaccinate your rabbits against myxomatosis (this is often done with the Nobivac combined vaccination for myxomatosis and RVHD1). Your vet will then advise what booster vaccinations your rabbit will need (usually every 6-12 months). Vaccination can take place from five weeks of age and take three weeks to become effective.
Vaccination is very effective; however, vaccinated rabbits can still get a milder form of the disease. The prognosis for vaccinated rabbits is very good with the majority fully recovering.
There is no specific treatment available for myxomatosis, though your vet can offer supportive care.
The prognosis for an unvaccinated rabbit with full-blown myxomatosis is usually a long and painful death. Therefore, euthanasia is preferable.
The prognosis for a rabbits with just the skin form or a rabbits that are vaccinated is usually good with the majority surviving without needing significant treatment.