All pet owners want their pets to have long, happy, healthy lives. The same goes for those who own rabbits.
However, there is one concept that can be very complicated for rabbit owners: Vaccines.
Do bunnies require vaccinations? Are they even safe?
These questions pose a real concern for bunny owners. We all want our pets to live healthy lives, but the role of vaccines can be very hard to understand. Luckily, we are able to put together this handy guide!
We’ll investigate what different specialists say about rabbit shots, answer why your bunny must be vaccinated in the first place, and examine various aspects related to bunny vaccination.
Stopping disease is always much easier than curing it. And if you own a dog or a cat, you are certainly aware that regular vaccinations are advised to keep them as healthy as possible. This requires a trip to the vet, where they will also perform a complete exam and health check on your pet.
But what about rabbits? Are rabbit owners required to provide the same type of care?
Do Bunnies Require Vaccination?
It really depends on what you mean by the word “need.” Legally speaking, vaccines for rabbits are only required if you reside in Europe or parts of Australia. These parts of the world require vaccinations against two different ailments: Myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease.
This is considered a large issue in these regions due to the commonality among wild rabbits. Both of these infections are very contagious and can easily transfer from wild rabbits to domestic rabbits.
Facing the same reason, these places have elected to make it compulsory for all bunnies, both indoor and outdoor, to acquire these vaccinations.
However, matters can be different in other parts of the world like in the U.S.A. and Canada. Vaccinating pet rabbits is very uncommon in these countries, and sometimes the opportunity might not even be available.
This is because of the rarity of these diseases in these countries. There are rare, short outbreaks of myxomatosis in the U.S.A., and this country hasn’t imposed licensed bunny vaccines against the disease as of yet.
Another instance is that rabbits can acquire rabies but at very low risk. There are no rabies-approved vaccines at least in the U.S., so the answer to “Do rabbits really need rabies shots?” is no.
Is It Fine to Let Your Pet Rabbit Roam Outside Without Being Vaccinated?
If you live in an area where there is no identified ongoing transmission of either Myxomatosis or the RHDV viruses, then it is not considered a high risk to bring your rabbit outdoors. However, most specialists still urged that you take precautions when taking your pet rabbit outdoors since there is always the chance of becoming infected with parasites. However, keeping your rabbit clean and dry is customarily enough.
On the other hand, if you are living in an area where there is an outbreak or known transmission of any of these viruses, then it’s best to keep your rabbit inside your home in their enclosure unless they have been vaccinated.
Both Myxomatosis and the RHDV viruses can easily be spread through contact. There is a chance that your rabbit could catch the disease if it gets in contact with an affected wild rabbit. Even if you are having an entirely closed-off outdoor area, the risk is still there. That’s because diseases can still be spread through insects so it would be safer to keep them indoors.
What Vaccinations Do Rabbits Require?
Once again, it all depends on the location. The country of the U.K. and Australia strongly requires vaccination of rabbits to fight off two different types of diseases: Myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease.
The law can be extremely confusing in other countries as to what vaccines they demand for rabbits, what vaccines are there, and what vaccines are considered illegal.
For instance, the country of Denmark has amended its law multiple times in the last decade. As of this day, not vaccinating your pet rabbit against myxomatosis is considered illegal in Denmark due to the risk of spreading the disease.
In the U.S.A., there is still no vaccination recommended for rabbits that have yet to be confirmed by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Center for Veterinary Biologics.
Because of this, there are no vaccines available either. Furthermore, it is considered illegal to import vaccinations from other countries, and that’s also the reason there are no vaccines available for rabbits in this country.
If you have any particular inquiries about the laws and regulations in your area, it would be better to ask your vet. They are surely familiar and up to date on all laws concerning rabbit vaccinations in your area.
Are There Vaccines Available for Rabbits?
The story comes a little different if you own a rabbit. We already know that there are currently no authorized vaccines available for rabbits in the US. Vaccines are only available in other parts of the world to protect your pet against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (RVHD).
Both Myxomatosis and RVHD are rare in the US. However, they’re starting to appear as problems in some rabbit populations, especially in the Southwestern United States. If an outbreak occurred in these areas, your vet may be allowed to import a vaccine only if the state vet authorizes it.
At this time, the vaccine that is allowed to be imported is for RVHD2. The vaccine for Myxomatosis is not yet authorized in the US.
Rabbits in the United States
Interestingly, vaccines for rabbits are not widely available in the United States for two reasons.
#1: The vaccine hasn’t been approved for safe use in the U.S.
#2: Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease don’t affect the rabbits in the U.S.
At this point, if you are a rabbit owner residing in the United States, there is no need for you to worry about having your pet rabbit being vaccinated.
But if you reside outside of the United States, there are a few vaccines that you should get for your rabbit.
The vaccines used to fight off Myxomatosis and both strains of RHDV (called RHD in the UK) are widely available and mandated by law in European countries. These viruses spread widely among wild rabbit populations in these places and there is a greater risk that it will spread to domestic rabbits as well.
You can have your rabbit vaccinated when it reaches 5 weeks old and another one when it reaches 10 weeks old. After this, it’s advised that you have them vaccinated annually to keep their immunity high against any dangerous diseases.
It may not be required by law in some countries, but it can often be a condition on a leasing arrangement that your pets are kept up-to-date on their shots. So in these circumstances, your landlord may require your rabbit to take its annual vaccinations.
Australia and New Zealand
The only vaccine for rabbits that are currently available in Australia and New Zealand is for RHDV1 (also called rabbit calicivirus). Though it was first detected in France, the mutated strain RHDV2 was first detected in Australia, but with no recommended vaccination.
However, some evidence implies the RHDV1 vaccine may also impose some effectiveness against RHDV2, so all rabbit owners are advised that their pets must stay up-to-date on their annual vaccination.
Despite the virus myxomatosis being widespread in Australia and New Zealand, there is still no vaccine available for domestic rabbits and both governments have no plans to produce one. The government is worried that the introduction of a vaccine to domestic rabbits would eventually lower their immunity to the disease.
There have been campaigns to acknowledge the use of the Myxomatosis vaccine in Australia, including suggested guidelines established by the Australian Veterinary Association, but at this point, it is still prohibited for use.
Rabbits in Other Parts of the World
The initial vaccine that was provided to rabbits was produced from Europe and Great Britain and it was called the Myxomatosis Vaccine. And the disease that the vaccine fights off is not natural, but man-made.
Myxomatosis was formed to lessen the population of wild rabbits in France. Unfortunately, it started to spread to domesticated rabbits. It was quickly spread by direct or indirect with a wild rabbit through fleas, mites, or other insect bites.
Myxomatosis is an incurable disease for rabbits and is not something to be messed with, so we recommend getting your rabbit vaccinated.
The second vaccine made is for a disease called Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD or VHD). The disease was detected throughout Europe and Great Britain and eventually detected in Canada, which can affect rabbits in the United States.
RHD usually strikes fast that the owners will just simply find their rabbit deceased. An unfavorable nature of this disease is it can pass through clothing or through non-living transmissions.
The vaccine for this virus is only available in European countries and Great Britain as it has not been considered safe to use in the U.S. yet.
Any of these diseases are not fun for you or your rabbit as well to go through. If you reside in the U.S., your vet might not have these vaccines to provide to your rabbit. But if you live in Europe or Great Britain, then we urge that you immediately get your rabbits vaccinated.
While there may not be any vaccines available in the U.S. for rabbits, anytime that you notice that your rabbit seems sick or something is seriously wrong, don’t wait. Call or go to your vet as quickly as possible.
Myxomatosis is a fatal virus that produces fever and swelling around the rabbit’s eye and nose. The mortality rate is very high at around 96%, and there is no known medication.
This virus was originally created in Australia and some areas of Europe in the 1950s to lessen the wild rabbit population. And though wild rabbits have acquired some amount of immunity, it’s still very fatal for our pet rabbits.
How it’s spread
Myxomatosis is commonly spread by blood-sucking pests, such as mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. These insects serve as transportation to transmit the virus from one host to another. For this reason, it’s prevalent for Myxomatosis outbreaks to happen in warmer seasons when insects are more common.
However, this disease also spreads through direct contact with an infected rabbit. They transmit the virus through the liquid of their nose and eyes, so having in tough with these areas can make the virus spread. It can take up to 14 days for any indications to transpire, but the rabbits can develop the disease before that time. They remain contagious even after death.
If you don’t have access to any vaccines, then the best way for you to stop the infection is by not letting them near any unfamiliar rabbits, or make sure to keep them away from insects that may be carrying the virus and by exercising basic cleanliness.
To stop the spread of Myxomatosis:
- Make sure to practice basic cleanliness (handwashing, changing clothes after coming into contact with other rabbits)
- Setting up mosquito netting around the rabbit’s cage.
- Having your rabbit run inside where there are fewer bugs to spread the disease.
- Ask a veterinarian about flea prevention in rabbits.
- Clean the rabbit’s enclosure and litter box often.
RHDV1 and RHDV2
RHDV (Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus) is a highly infectious virus that is also very fatal for rabbits. It causes liver collapse and internal bleeding.
In several cases, rabbits will exhibit indications of illness, such as high fever, lack of energy and appetite, or trouble breathing. In some instances, there may be no symptoms at all, and it will generate sudden death.
How it’s spread
The RHDV viruses are spread through contact with other infected rabbits, but they are much more infectious than Myxomatosis. It’s also a tough infection that can penetrate around on surfaces and materials for a very long period without dying.
Both strains of RHDV can be transferred between rabbits by:
- Direct transmission between rabbits who come into touch with each other
- Transmission through the clothing of the owners or caretakers
- Strolling outside in an area where there is an outbreak and carrying it inside via shoes
- Infected food or water supply
- Scavenging outside, particularly in places that wild rabbits can access
- Through contact with other pets that roam outdoors
Even though this is a very deadly virus, there is a lot you can do to stop the spread and defend your rabbit.
If you reside in a country where there are verified cases of the RHDV2 virus, speak to your veterinarian. They may be able to help you to acquire emergency permission to provide your rabbit the European vaccination.
Other preventative steps include:
- Keeping your rabbit indoors
- Wash your hands and change your clothes before handling with your rabbit
- Avoid wearing outdoor shoes inside the house
- Don’t let your rabbit come into contact with unfamiliar rabbits
- Avoid serving greens or foliage that may have come into contact with a wild rabbit
- Keep other pets indoors or in separate spaces from your rabbit
- Quarantine new rabbits for 14 days before you let them out
- Do not touch any dead rabbits that you see outdoors
When to Get Your Rabbit Vaccinated
If you are residing in an area where you can get your rabbit vaccinated, it’s best to do so as quickly as possible.
As of this writing, it is typical for rabbits to get two shots to achieve immunity to fight off all three viruses.
The first type of vaccine is applied to fight off Myxomatosis and RHDV1, and this must be provided to rabbits once they reach five weeks old. The other shot is to fight off RHDV2, which can be provided once a rabbit is 10 weeks old.
Rabbit Vaccinations Side Effects
If you do get your rabbit vaccinated, prepare yourself for some side effects, just like with every vaccine.
Side effects to the VHD vaccine include loss of appetite (normally for only 24 hours); obvious reactions like swelling, irritation, and hair loss, and in very rare cases, death because of the severe reaction.
Luckily, reactions from vaccines are very rare.
The side effects of the Myxomatosis vaccine include bulging in the injected area, quick fever, and lack of appetite. This is a very reliable vaccine, with overdoses in at-risk rabbits only generating minor side effects.
It is also essential to keep in mind that even if your pet rabbit is injected with the Myxomatosis vaccine, it is not guaranteed it will never get the virus. It is still possible, even after vaccination.
However, the virus is usually minor when linked to Myxomatosis in unvaccinated rabbits, and is not as lethal.
How Much Do Rabbit Vaccinations Cost
The total cost of yearly vaccinations is normally between $40 and $60. Of course, this can differ widely depending on your precise location.
This can be a critical cost to recognize when thinking about raising a bunny.
As you can see, the response to this question can differ extensively.
In some places, it is mandated that all bunnies must obtain particular vaccinations. In other countries, vaccines have yet to be cleared and approved.
It does matter a lot where exactly you reside. Furthermore, the type of rabbit you have is also crucial.
Some deadly viruses that are commonly vaccinated only affect specific species of rabbits. Therefore, you might not require to get your rabbit vaccinated if they are of different kinds.
Your vet should have up-to-date, definite knowledge regarding the regulations in your area. And therefore, if you have any inquiries, it is always best to reach a rabbit-friendly vet for the exact information.
This is particularly true in areas that regularly change their laws when it comes to rabbit vaccinations.
Lastly, although vets can’t regularly vaccinate a rabbit, it’s still a good idea to take them for a yearly wellness check. Your vet can check their teeth and weight, as well as other irregularities. Problems in these areas can be early signs of disease that may otherwise persist undetected.