Do Rabbits Need Shots? 3 Essential Vaccinations to Protect Your Bunny

Do Rabbits Need Shots? 3 Essential Vaccinations to Protect Your Bunny

Do rabbits need shots? Do you really need to vaccinate your rabbits? Depending on where you live, vaccination may or may not be required by law. But even if it’s not, the appropriate shots can protect your rabbits against VHD/RHD and Myxomatosis and can help your rabbits live longer, healthier lives.

Why Vaccinate?

do rabbits need shots
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You might think that because pet rabbits and wild rabbits rarely come into direct contact, that rabbit vaccinations are unnecessary. But bunnies can contract illnesses in other ways, too. Other sources of contagious disease include other animals and pets, contact with contaminated objects, blood sucking insects, and, of course, wild rabbits. A mother rabbit may also spread disease to her litter.

Our bunnies are depending on us to protect them. Vaccination is one easy thing way that we can do this. Click To Tweet

Fortunately, rabbits can be vaccinated against some of the worst rabbit diseases. In addition to keeping your pet safe, vaccines can help to stop the spread of these deadly diseases to other rabbits.

Speak to your vet about vaccines to protect your rabbit’s health. Your vet may also be able to recommend low-cost options for vaccination, if necessary.

Which Shots Do Rabbits Need?

The RSPCA recommends three vaccinations for rabbits: Myxomatosis, and the two variants of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease, RVHD-1 and RVHD-2.

Rabbits can be vaccinated against all three of these painful and deadly diseases. Speak to your vet about these and other rabbit vaccinations that can keep your bunny healthy and happy.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD)

Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (also called rabbit haemorrhagic disease, VHD, RHD, or RVHD) is a highly infectious disease with a high mortality rate. There are two rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease variants that affect pet rabbits: RVHD-1 and RVHD-2.

Generic greyscale image of virus cells.
“Virus cells” by Creativity103 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease is fatal in 50 to 100 per cent of cases. There’s no treatment for rabbit haemorrhagic disease, but fortunately, rabbits can be vaccinated against both variants. Vaccination prevents both infection and spread of rabbit haemorrhagic disease.

The spread of rabbit haemorrhagic disease comes mainly through contact with the bodily fluids of infected animals. It can be passed between rabbits, from human to rabbit, or on a rabbit’s toys or food dishes. Other animals, such as cats and dogs, can unwittingly spread the virus, as well. Rabbit haemorrhagic disease can live for up to 100 days on objects indoors or out. It’s also resistant to freezing.

Often sudden death is the first indication that your rabbit had VHD. However, other signs may present first.

Other symptoms of RVHD include:

  • Fever
  • Bleeding from the mouth, nose, or anus
  • Lethargy
  • Bruising
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Convulsions

Don’t wait for your rabbit’s symptoms. Make sure your bunny is vaccinated against RVHD every year or or as often as your vet recommends.

Myxomatosis

In terms of rabbit diseases, Myxomatosis is one of the worst.

The Myxoma virus was introduced by humans between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries as a means of controlling the wild rabbit population. It worked so well that now it’s a major threat to the health of pet rabbits, too.

Myxomatosis is a painful, extremely contagious, and fatal disease. There is no treatment; it is almost always fatal.

The main routes for transmission of Myxomatosis include biting insects and contact with the eye, nose, or other bodily fluids of infected rabbits. Rabbits can also catch Myxomatosis through contact with infected objects such as toys, food dishes, and so forth.

Humans cannot contract Myxomatosis, but we can pass it between rabbits.

Signs of Myxomatosis include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin lumps
  • Swelling / oedema of the eyes or genitals
  • Milky discharge from the eyes

Your veterinarian can vaccinate your rabbits against myxomatosis. The vaccination offers a rabbit protection against both infection and transmission.

As with many vaccinations, there are rare breakthrough cases. However, when vaccinated bunnies contract myxomatosis, the cases are generally mild, with a good chance of recovery.

From What Age Do Rabbits Need Shots?

Two hands gently holding a very small brown baby bunny.
Image by Incyngenia, under Pixabay license, via Pixabay

A rabbit can be vaccinated as early as five weeks of age for some vaccines. Others are administered later. Again, check with your vet to set up an appropriate vaccination schedule.

Myxomatosis

The Myxomatosis vaccine can be administered as early as six weeks of age. This is an annual vaccine, but in some areas, your vet may recommend vaccinating against Myxomatosis more than once every year.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

There are several options for RHD vaccines. The easiest is a shot that combines vaccines for RHD-1 and RHD-2 vaccine. This vaccine can be given to rabbits as young as five weeks old. Your rabbits will need regular boosters. Your vet can help you set the best schedule for your bunny.

You can also vaccinate your pets separately for each variant of this virus. Your vet can administer a separate RHD-1 vaccine as young as five weeks old, and a separate RHD-2 vaccine at ten weeks old.

Speak to your vet about the best way to protect your bunny from these diseases.

Combination Vaccine

A brown rabbit and a black and white spotted rabbit cuddling.
Image by Dendoktoor, under Pixabay license, via Pixabay

You might wonder if there’s a single vaccine that can protect your bunny from all three diseases. There is. Recently a combined vaccination for myxomatosis, RHD-1 and RHD-2 has become available. This vaccine may be appropriate if your bunny has been vaccinated against myxomatosis and RHD-1 but not RHD-2.

The combination vaccine can be administered as early as seven weeks of age. In addition, you may be offered a booster every year.

As always, contact your veterinary professional to see which vaccinations are most appropriate for your pet.

Do Rabbit Vaccinations Have Side Effects?

An internet search may lead you to believe that all vaccines have terrible side effects. The fact is, though, that in most cases, side effects are mild, for example, temporary, slight pain at the injection site.

For most rabbit owners, the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risk of side effects. Immunity and protection against a painful death are worth the risk of mild injection site pain that doesn’t last for a long time.

How Often Do Rabbits Need Shots?

It would be nice if rabbit vaccinations were like many childhood vaccines for humans: one and done. Unfortunately a virus never sleeps, and vaccines for the three main rabbit diseases are more like flu vaccines for people.

Vaccination for RHD-1 and RHD-2 may require annual boosters. As for Myxomatosis, if it’s prevalent in your area, you may need to vaccinate your bunnies as much as every six months to keep them healthy.

As always, contact your veterinary professional to see how often you’ll need to vaccinate your animals for maximum immunity and protection.

What if My Rabbits Don’t See Other Rabbits?

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Rabbit to rabbit contact is only one way to spread a virus. Disease can also spread through contact with humans, other animals such as a cat or a dog, infected toys, food dishes, water bottles, blankets, and so forth. Blood sucking insects like fleas and other insects, like flies can carry a virus from animal to animal.

Vaccinations can protect your rabbit from fatal diseases like Myxomatosis and VHD/RHD. Vaccinations can also help to stop the spread of these contagious diseases from pet to pet, and from pet rabbits to the wild rabbit population.

But My Rabbit Lives Indoors

Even if your rabbit lives indoors, there may still be a risk of contagious disease from insects, contact with contaminated objects, or infected humans, cats, dogs, or other pets. Vaccinations can protect both indoor and outdoor rabbits from unnecessary pain and death.

How Much do Shots Cost for Rabbits?

Vaccinations for your pets can be expensive. However, because vaccinating protects not only one’s own pets but also helps to stop the spread of deadly disease, there are organizations that can help. Ask your vet or local animal welfare organisation about low-cost vaccination clinics, vaccination promotional events, and other resources in your area. A quick internet search can also help.

For More Information

Rabbit owners in the United States may have a more difficult time accessing certain vaccinations. The House Rabbit Society has excellent resources about vaccine availability in the U.S. The House Rabbit Society can also help U.S. rabbit owners to find cost effective options for vaccinating their rabbits and providing other essential health care. Search their website (http://www.rabbit.org) for more information.

Rabbits Need Protection. Vaccinations Can Help.

A small brown and white lop-eared rabbit enjoys a friendly cuddle from its owner.
“Enjoying a cuddle” by jpockele is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pet rabbits need three vaccinations to stay healthy: Myxomatosis, Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 and RHVD-2. There is a separate vaccination for each of these, but there are also vaccinations that combine two or more of them.

You can vaccinate your rabbits as early as five weeks of age for RVHD-1. Rabbits can also receive the combined RVHD-1/RVHD-2 vaccine at five weeks. The separate RVHD-2 is typically given at ten weeks.

The first Myxomatosis injection is typically given at six weeks, and the combined Myxo/RVHD-1/RHVD-2 vaccination can be given at five weeks.

Vaccinating rabbits may be easier in some areas than in others. Your veterinarian or local rabbit welfare organisation can point you toward resources that can help you to find low-cost vaccinating facilities near you.

Vaccination can increase immunity, decrease the risk of infection, and help to stop disease from spreading. In the rare event of breakthrough infections, vaccination can reduce serious and painful symptoms, and often can prevent death.

Our bunnies are depending on us to protect them. Vaccination is one easy thing that we can do. Your veterinarian can help you to set up an annual schedule of vaccinations, and, if cost is an issue, they may even be able to direct you to low-cost alternatives.

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Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday is a longtime bunny lover and a mom to a succession of rescue rabbits. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience and hopes that it will make the world a better place for bunnies

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