Over the past few years, including just this past week, we have heard reports of myxomatosis killing rabbits in areas throughout California and the West Coast, and some of our own foster homes have lost rabbits to this deadly disease.
What is myxomatosis?
Myxomatosis is a viral infection which is fatal to most rabbits, although it can be treatable for a small percentage of rabbits if caught early enough. It is usually transmitted by biting insects, most commonly mosquitoes, who bite infected wild rabbits and transmit the virus to domestic rabbits who do not have the immunity to the disease that is found in many wild populations. Symptoms of the disease include swelling of the eyes, nose, ears, and genitals, and death is usually within a few days.
Are your rabbits at risk?
Rabbits are at risk when living outdoors, or even playing outdoors, when in an environment in which wild rabbit populations and mosquitoes (or other biting insects) are present. In California, this is primarily found in mountainous areas as well as areas near the coasts or areas with large bodies of standing water.
What can you do to protect your rabbit?
Rabbits live longer, healthier lives when indoors. Because myxomatosis is just one of many concerns facing rabbits who live outdoors, House Rabbit Society recommends indoor homes for rabbits as the primary preventative, along with adequate screening on doors and windows.
For rabbits who must live or spend some of their time out of doors, protection against mosquitoes is next best bet, via protecting the rabbits’ play area with mosquito netting or some other barrier. Some people have also found success with treating rabbits directly with safe insecticides.
by Margo DeMello
For more information on myxomatosis, go to: http://www.burrill.demon.co.uk/meddoc/myxo.html
For information on hazards facing outdoor rabbits, go to: http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/hazards.html