Myxomatosis is a pox virus that affects rabbits. It was first introduced to Australia in 1950 to reduce the feral rabbit population. Initially it was rapidly fatal with very few survivors, however resistance has developed in the feral rabbit population and less deadly strain have emerged, allowing rabbit numbers to partly recover.
Pet rabbits have very little resistance to Myxoma virus and are therefore suffer high mortality rates once infected. Most rabbits die within 10-14 days although some highly virulent strain can cause death much sooner, before clinical signs have time to develop. Infected rabbits are usually lethargic, developing swelling and discharge around the eyes, nose and genital areas.
There is no specific treatment for the disease and as most pet rabbits suffer significantly with very little chance of recovery despite treatment, humane euthanasia is usually recommended.
Myxo is spread by direct contact with infected rabbits as well as by biting insects like fleas and mosquitoes.
For their protection
- pet rabbits should be isolated from their feral cousins and provided with insect proof netting on their hutches, even those in doors.
- If rabbits are given outdoor time, early morning and evening are best avoided.
- Flea prevention is highly recommended and Revolution is now licensed products for rabbits.