The Importance of Vaccinating Your Rabbit

Many people are aware that cats and dogs require vaccinations throughout their lives, but did you know that vaccinations are also important to help protect your rabbit’s health?

Which Diseases Can Rabbits Be Vaccinated Against?

Rabbits can be vaccinated against 3 life threatening diseases

  • Myxomatosis
  • Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Type 1 (RHD-1)
  • Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Type 2 (RHD-2)

These diseases are present in both the pet rabbit and the wild rabbit population. Each disease is highly contagious, which means that it can easily be spread between rabbits and, unfortunately, if your rabbit becomes infected then it will often result in death. However, there are vaccinations available that we can give to your rabbit to help protect them from these diseases.


Myxomatosis has very classical signs of illness

  • Skin lumps
  • Swelling of eyes, face and genitals
  • Nasal (Nose) discharge
  • Ocular (Eye) discharge
  • Generalised signs of illness
    • Lethargy (Quiet)
    • Inappetence (Stops eating)
    • Stops producing faecal pellets

Rabbits can become infected with myxomatosis through being bitten by the rabbit flea or mosquitos. They can also become infected through having direct contact with an infected rabbit.

Flea control can also be useful in helping to prevent disease and we can provide you with a flea product that is suitable for your rabbit. It is important that the flea product you use is safe for rabbits, as some flea products for cats and dogs can be toxic to rabbits.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease

RHD-1 and RHD-2 are 2 different strains of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) that often cause sudden death without any signs of illness. This makes it hard to detect this disease until it is too late. When signs of illness are shown they are usually only generalised signs

  • Lethargy (Quiet)
  • Inappetence (Stops eating)
  • Stops producing faecal pellets

As with myxomatosis, rabbits can become infected with RHD through having direct contact with an infected rabbit. They can also be infected indirectly by having contact with an item or animal (e.g. food/clothing/insects/birds/other pets) that has been contaminated by an infected rabbit.


Your rabbit will require 2 vaccinations for protection against all 3 diseases. This is because there is not a single vaccination that will cover against all 3 diseases.

The vaccinations that your rabbit will receive:

  • A myxomatosis and RHD-1 combination vaccine
  • RHD-2 vaccine

The vaccinations will be given 2 weeks apart as they cannot be given at the same time. Either vaccine can be given first.

Myxomatosis and RHD-1 Vaccine

The myxomatosis and RHD-1 combined vaccine needs to be repeated every 12 months for continued protection. Once vaccinated it will take 3 weeks for your rabbit to become protected. Rabbits can have their first vaccination from 5 weeks of age.

RHD-2 Vaccine

The purpose of this vaccine is to protect your rabbit against RHD-2. After the vaccine has been given your rabbit will have protection after 1 week. There are 2 different vaccines available to protect against this disease and vaccination will need to be repeated between 6-12 months depending which type we use and the risk of disease for the individual rabbit. Contact us for further information on our RHD-2 vaccine schedule.

Side Effects

It is uncommon to see side effects after vaccinating your rabbit and usually any signs seen will be mild. However, as with taking any medication there is always a risk of side effects in a very small number of the population.

Signs you may see

  • A small non-painful swelling over the area injected
  • Some hair loss or scabbing over the area injected
  • Mild clinical signs of myxomatosis e.g. some scabbing of non-haired areas (after myxomatosis vaccination only)

If you see any of the above signs or if your rabbit appears to be quieter than normal, not eating or not producing faecal pellets then contact us for further information.

Your Rabbit’s Visit To The Vets

When your rabbit comes to visit us for their vaccinations they will be given a head to toe examination first by our vet. This is to ensure that there are no signs of illness and that the rabbit is healthy so they can receive their vaccinations. If you have any concerns about your pet then it is important to mention it to our vet.

The vaccinations are given to your rabbit by an injection into the skin on the back of their neck. There is a lot of excess skin here so they will not notice the injection. Our vet will discuss with you a suitable vaccine schedule for your rabbit, including when you need to return for your next vaccination.

We know that your rabbit’s health is important to you, so we advise that you keep your rabbits fully vaccinated to keep them protected from disease.